Welcome, new year. While many of the troubles that persisted in 2012 will linger, there's something refreshing about the chance to start anew each January. In the past week, we've devoted many of our news pages to looking back, but on this day, when routines are restored after the holidays, we look with hope and optimism at the possibilities for the next 364.
A new year inherently carries the opportunity for individuals to reshape their lives by way of resolutions, those nagging promises to ourselves we often soon forget. But beyond the usual lose weight, stop smoking and get out of debt -- though all good goals -- today we respectfully offer some simple resolutions that could make a difference not just in our personal lives but also could strengthen our communities. Consider those that may apply to you, and take them in the spirit of improvement.
• Resolve to take public transportation or bike or walk to work. True, not everyone is able to do so because of irregular work hours, health restrictions or logistical considerations, but some of the hoops can be negotiated with a little planning. Even a once-a-week commitment would reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 20 percent.
• Resolve to prepare yourself for emergencies. Buy a shovel and blankets for the car or an emergency supply kit for your house. Consider enrolling in a CERT course (Community Emergency Response Team), offered in many suburbs to residents of all ages. For more ideas go to www.illinois.ready.gov.
• Resolve to find a local charity to help that you haven't before, either with financial resources or time. Even one donation can make a difference.
• Resolve to put down the phone while driving. Granted, state law permits talking except in certain areas, but it remains a good idea to avoid it everywhere, and texting is off limits completely. Calling while driving may save a little time, but the consequences of distracted driving can lead to a lifetime of suffering.
• Resolve to introduce yourself to one neighbor you don't know. Think about how many names of residents on your street or floor you know. Could you make the effort to add a name to a face this year? You already have something in common that you care about -- the neighborhood.
• Resolve to let your opinion be known publicly. A sharing of ideas leads to a lifting of the best ones. Some easy ways to do so: write a letter to the editor, comment online, socially network, attend a community or school meeting and say something.
• Resolve to sign the organ donor registry. Consider Susan Clements of Elk Grove Village, now 48 after receiving a new liver 20 years ago. She celebrated the milestone last week with friends. If you haven't registered yet, log on to www.donatelifeillinois.org.
Each of these resolutions has a potential for a wide reach, but if you put off the chance to improve, as author Karen Lamb admonishes: "A year from now you may wish you had started today." Resolve not to let that happen.