by Melissa Spas, Managing Director of Education and Engagement
The turning of the year lends us the opportunity to be reflective, considering what happened in the year that ended and what might come in the year ahead. Of course, there is always much to review – what was accomplished and what remains unfinished, the gains and the losses, the faithfulness of change as a constant in life. Once we review and reflect on what transpired, there is an opportunity to turn our attention to what we might pursue or uncover in the year ahead.
In fact, in some ways, we are so eager to have this kind of fresh start that we may mark it several times in a single calendar year. Different religious traditions mark the New Year in their own ways: Al-Hijra in Islam, Rosh Hashanah in Judaism, the beginning of Advent in the Christian liturgical calendar.
The line between religious and civil or cultural markers is not always clear, including the observation of Nowruz (the Persian new year), numerous Hindu and southeast Asian observations, or the Chinese New Year (observed throughout Asia at the lunar new year). A recent article in The Atlantic discussed the beauty of “back to school” for many people long removed from the academic calendar, for the sense of a new beginning to the year, even as the days are getting shorter.
The beginning of a new year is refreshing, and ideally, it holds open the space for all of us to discern the opportunities and gifts available to us – religious leaders, fundraisers, and philanthropists alike. How can we make this kind of space in our daily lives for reflection and discernment?
With pressing demands and the constant cycle of news and information, it can be challenging to slow down and turn our attention to discernment. There is much to be said about mindfulness, intentionality, and spiritual discipline, but we all must start somewhere, and for the work of religious fundraising and philanthropy, one practice stands out to me.