A New Year’s Eve
With a New Resolution for the Coming Year

People from around the world will soon be singing Auld Lang Syne even if they don’t have the foggiest idea about the meaning of those lyrics written by Bobby Burns in 1788. In reality, hardly anyone knows what “auld lang syne” means. It has a handful of meanings starting with the literal translation: “old long since.” How’s that for clarity? The literal translation morphs into variations, which are more understandable. Versions like “days gone by” or “for the sake of old times.”

Burns was reflecting upon the past and wrote “take a cup of kindness….” Burns’ drinks with a friend about remembering “auld lang syne.”

And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne

Burns was writing about days long gone when kindness, love, and caring was a common thread that bound people together. It seems to me that Burns wanted to remember the past lest people forget it. New Year’s Eve was and still is a time to celebrate. However, Burns was clear about the importance of celebrating caring for and helping others.

Therefore, this essay is my tribute to Bobby Burns and his lyrics, Auld Lang Syne. As we raise a cup to times past, let us think about the coming New Year. We have a tradition of making a list of things that we need to address in the New Year. Most of us need to lose weight, exercise daily, and generally take care of oneself. Now, by early February, many of our New Year’s resolutions will fade away and be long forgotten. By the end of 2019, most of us will be making another list as we have for many times past.

Nonetheless, let me tell you about what has happened to me in the past decade. The first item relates to two dances with death. One was prostate cancer. However, it metastasized to the area around the prostate. The other was a traumatic brain injury (subdural hematoma) due to falling off a ladder and hitting my head on a retaining wall. In both cases, I was able to recover from both medical issues.

Additionally, and of equal importance, both dances changed my life in a profoundly positive way. Everyone knows that they won’t live forever. However, if you haven’t done the dance, you know that you aren’t immoral from a logical perspective. Dancing with death can cause one to grasp it from their inner being. Trust me. That being said, I wouldn’t have bought that statement prior to doing the dances. However, I do now.

That was at the beginning of the last decade. The second transformative event occurred in the last half of the decade. Five years ago, the radical change started while playing Scrabble with Ti Ti, who lives in the Southern Shan State of Myanmar (Burma).

As a result of playing Scrabble, Ti Ti and now her two younger sisters are my grandchildren. Consequently, Moh Moh and Ko Ko are my children. Again, if I were reading this from your perspective, man, I’d seriously doubt it. I am fully aware of that.

Here is the quickest means for you to accept my statement as fact. I have danced with death twice, and I am 75. Well, in all honesty, I’ll be 76 in three weeks. Therefore, I’m a senior citizen. I have a will for the time when I am gone. It will dispense my vast fortunes…slightly less than what Donald the Dumb our fake president possesses. Okay, a lot less than our fake president has. Now, I have three children and three grandchildren in my will. However, a couple of years ago, my family in Myanmar was added to my will. Why? Like I said, we are family.

In the last five years, I have been to Myanmar twice and will be returning in a year from now. This third trip will involve returning to Taunggyi, where my three grandchildren go to two different schools. The student body of the two schools’ totals 1250 students. Those 1250 kids plus my three grandchildren don’t use laptops in their school. Why? The schools can’t afford laptops for them. However, in a month or so, We Are Family in Myanmar, Inc. will begin raising a half million dollars for the laptops and improved Internet reception at the schools. The 1250 students, minus my three grandchildren, make up my extended family.

While you are making a list of things that you are resolving to do in the New Year of 2019, like watching your weight and exercising, I want you to ponder a critically important question: who makes up your family. Obviously, your parents, siblings, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, etc. make up your family.

My question is how far does your family extend? Some of my readers have people extremely close to them that genetically are not related. That is true with my family and extended family in Taunggyi, Myanmar. Think about just how far you are willing to extend your family. Is race a deterrent? Is ethnicity something that stops you? What about nationalities; can your family be from another country. What about where they live or what language they speak?

I love my family in Myanmar based upon the same reason that I love my family in the States. All the variants between our families don’t matter. Let me tell you a secret about which I have written dozens of essays. My family in Myanmar started while playing Scrabble with a nine-year-old child five years ago and has intensified in the ensuing years. It has changed me in the same manner as successfully dancing with death. I’m a different cat today than I was a decade ago.

George Eliot, in her novella, Silas Marner wrote,

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.

Nearly six decades ago, I stood in front of Mrs. Davis, my twelfth grade English teacher and recited that quote from Silas Marner. The difference between then and now is that I finally understood what Eliot knew a century before my recitation.

Finally, Bobby Kennedy, the most influential mentor of my life, said, “Every generation inherits a world it never made; and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after. In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.” I’ll be proud of my accounting to my children here and in Myanmar. The unanswered question is left for you to answer.

Donald the Dumb’s answer is his nuclear family. Anyone, outside his immediate family, is persona non grata.

So, in a few hours, a New Year will arrive. How will you live 2019? Think about what your New Year’s resolution will be. Choose wisely. Oh, by the way, remember Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

This video is of Rod Stewart singing Auld Lang Syne.