Playing it by year — who knows what 2024 holds?

They say that an optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. So it will be for many of us this Sunday night when we bid a glad farewell to another year and welcome in the latest instalment — another chapter in the book of life.

We can never trust a new year — every new year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals? Ones that have let us down, having promised so much.

In 2020, the year they named after hindsight, we had so much to anticipate, but it turned out to be the bleakest in generations.

In 2021, we longed for the end of a New Way of Living. For many, our first experience of being controlled as adults.

In 2022, we started with hope of a renewal of human spirit and found it dashed within weeks with the invasion of Ukraine.

In 2023, our roads once again became the killing fields they used to be in the 70s and 80s, as so. many lost their lives using the highways and byways of the country.

So what does 2024 hold in store for us?

What excites about a new year also has the scope to disappoint. The beauty of tomorrow is that we never know exactly what it brings. The tomorrows add a frisson to life that surpasses the staleness of what has happened in the past.

To be truthful, I approach this year with more hope than expectation. In a world where kindness is a diminishing commodity, we can all do our bit to make the space around us one of compassion and empathy. The New Year stands before us like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

The object of a New Year is not just that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Symbolically, we need to rush to our front door when the the bells chime the New Year in, to let in the freshness of the new time.

The last few New Year’s Eve have been dispiriting.

I recall the hope we had on New Year’s Eve 2019, when I stood with others at St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church and heard the bells of the tower ring out the welcome for the hope that 2020 was going to bring. The bells were responded to by the horns of the boats on the bay, as it marked the start of a key birthday for that wonderful building, but also a reminder of the great links we once had with the sea and the world beyond.

That year did not turn out as expected, but I would hope that the bells of welcome will ring out from Galway this weekend, that those who hear them on land and at sea will know that there is a welcome for them here, that our future spirit will come from the presence of those we welcome into our hearts.That the toxic tongue of suspicion will enable them to live their best lives in their new homes.

Our place has always been a welcoming place, whether it be the homeless, the student, the poet or the multinational company. By being as we were, we can continue to ensure that we flourish through being sound people, nice to each other, open to mercy, because at the end of the day that is how our life is judged.

Have a great 2024, folks. See you on the other side.


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