Happy New Year! A new calendar is much like a blank canvas – a surface just waiting for the strokes that highlight our lives – depth, color, and perhaps, perspective. Birthdays, anniversaries, pay days, school vacations, and medical appointments might get first listing on the family calendar; business meetings and conferences fill in the office calendar. My calendar also includes the every Tuesday afternoon deadline for this column! By and large, though, calendar entries are all about people, and how we interact.
In the waning months of 2012, events across the nation – the presidential campaigns and election, the fiscal cliff (or slope, or curb – the angle seems to change but the gravity doesn’t) stalemate, the senseless loss of life in Newtown – often elicited harsh commentary and shrill voices that separate and divide people into categories: pro-this and anti-that. Differences of opinion are demonized, and no one budges from their positions. The blame game goes on, and we remain a split nation.
That can, and should, change. The traditional New Year’s resolutions like getting more exercise or losing weight, while important to your health, basically are pretty mundane. More difficult is a resolution that focuses on listening to others and understanding their perspectives, even if yours is different. It’s OK to disagree; the problem arises when honest disagreement becomes disagreeable and disrespectful. Everyday discourse isn’t war; most interactions aren’t matters of winning and losing. We’re not keeping score, are we? Well, maybe in cards and contests, but perhaps we should think in terms of a jigsaw puzzle: some disparate pieces are easy to fit together, others are more difficult, but sticking with it can form a unified picture. Let’s resolve to change behaviors (our own), think about the words we use, and moderate the public and private discourse in our community. Change rarely is easy, but that empty calendar page might be a start.
Loss of a friend or family member during the holidays is difficult, but that loss can be assuaged by satisfaction of a good life well lived. Such was the life of Henry E. Strickland, Jr., who passed away just before Christmas at the age of 84. A 1950 graduate of West Point, Hank had a distinguished career in the United States Army, and retired with the rank of Colonel. Later, Hank became a full-time community volunteer, including president of the Sleepy Hollow Citizens Association and chairman of the Mason District Land Use Committee. Supervisor Tom Davis appointed Hank as Mason District’s Planning Commissioner at a time when revitalization and redevelopment of Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners was just beginning to blossom. Hank served in that role for six years, and had a knack for staying cool and gentlemanly even in the most vigorous debates about land use. Hank Strickland is survived by his wife, Muriel, and four children. Two daughters predeceased him. God bless you, Hank.