Looking forward to a fresh start and new day in 2011


     A new day. A new year. A chance to embrace a fresh start.
     Most people relish the chance to wipe the slate clean and open a new page on life. It is a fundamental message of the cross and the underlying promise of Christianity. As one time-honored hymn explains, we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”
      For many people, there is sound reason to be optimistic about 2011, from the emerging signs of an economic recovery, to the unfolding advances in medical science, to the chance that we might all lose 20 pounds this year (well, five pounds, anyway).
     There is a particular historic component to this new year. On Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65. And, according to the Pew Research Center, about 10,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.
And, as Pew reports:
 “By standard measures such as the share who pray daily or frequency of attending religious services, Baby Boomers are less religious than adults ages 65 and older but more religious than adults in younger generations.
“Among Baby Boomers, 43 percent say they are a ‘strong’ member of their religion, a higher share than among younger adults and a lower share than among older ones. Four-in-10 say they attend religious services at least once a week. Conversely, 13 percent say they have no religious affiliation, less than younger adults but more than older adults.”
     Pew also reports that “Baby Boomers are more downbeat than other age groups about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole.”
     Sounds like a large segment of the population might be eager to embrace a fresh start, even at age 65. But even most Baby Boomers might agree, regardless of any diminished sense of optimism about the future, there is one reason to feel good about the new year: 2010 is over.
     What a year it has been.
     As reported by the Associated Press:
     “This was the year the Earth struck back. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter of a million people in 2010 – the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined.
            “Nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared with 15,000 in 2009.”
        How challenging and problematic was 2010?
       The Merriam-Webster dictionary named “austerity” as its Word of the Year. The 14th century noun is defined as "the quality or state of being austere" and "enforced or extreme economy."
         Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it?
         So, one year from now, when we are looking back at 2011, what do you think will end up being Word of the Year?
     I don’t have a good track record at prognostication, whether it is football games or stocks, but I’ll make my prediction for 2011: Hope.
     May you have a happy and blessed new year.
Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can e-mail him at glenn@advocate.org.