An Unexpected New Year - A Short Story

She steps out into the quiet night hoping only for a quick stroll around the block.

She is layered with warmth after digging in the winter clothes box in search of just the right mittens, hat and scarf to defend against the chill. The night air is indeed frigid but crisp and clear. She knows it will feel good to stretch her legs, move a little. The wrapping, the baking and the entertaining chaos complete, she promises herself even the shortest of walks will be a tonic and might add a little pep to her sagging spirits.

And she is surprised by it. She finds the night to be like a little jewel shining just for her. Twinkly in its clarity, its peace - almost like it was waiting to show off for her. The dazzling stars and the light, shimmery snow are a jolt to her spirit on this the last night of the year.

She walks with efficiency at first, moving quickly to keep warm. As she contemplates the year she changes her pace. Her thoughtfulness at time passing is enveloped in the comfort of this solitary moment. The night welcomes all of her thoughts about small things like recycling and laundry and big things like college and retirement. Every now and then she passes a brightly lit bungalow overflowing with laughter and the clinking of glasses, playing of games, general revelry and she shakes her head.

She doesn’t care much about New Year’s Eve. To her, it is just another night – good for a walk and then in the morning back to the routine of life which brings comfort to her. It’s just a date on a calendar, a flip of the month. She sees no point in the good luck sentiments being passed around as she listens to the snippets of conversation at each party hub along the lane. She has seen good years and she has seen difficult years –all have floated by without the good luck charms having any obvious affect.

She blames the advertising that takes consumers by the hand and leads them towards the big New Year and all the habits that must change, things that must start – reminding everyone to be unsatisfied.  

She is startled by a dog once silent now yipping protectively at her through the white picket fence. Her heart races – having not expected the assault on her quiet evening musings.

She brushes all of that off choosing instead to exhale at the vastness of the sky against the rows of well-kept homes and smartly mapped streets. She picks up her pace for a few blocks, ticking off the street names, planning her route when she comes upon it – something that catches her attention:

An older gentleman is sitting in his tiny craftsman dining room, hunched over a warmly lit table, reading. What is he reading, she wonders? It must be a Bible. And what does he think of holidays like this? Is he tired of another year coming and then going? He seems to be fully contented - fully consumed by this moment. She realizes that as she is wondering about this man, she’s stopped right in front of his house. The old man seems to be intently speaking with his eyes closed….yes, praying, clearly moved to tears in the midst of his “conversation.”

Her thoughts are interrupted by a loud countdown – “3! 2! 1!” – And then “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” And then, as if on cue, the old man looks up from his prayer, his reading and fastens his gaze upon her…and… smiles.

In this moment, the radiance of his kindness and his notice of her is riveting. She doesn’t move. She should. She realizes this is a very odd encounter and that it’s inappropriate for her to be staring into his deeply personal evening moment, but she cannot move. He waves a gentle, simple wave with his arthritic knuckled fingers slowly opening. A gesture of such sweetness and warmth, she can hardly take it in. She has been given a gift. A transfer of Glory from an old, past-his-prime gentleman to her feeble, waiting and hungry heart. 

She smiles and waves back.

She has a solitary focus. She breathes deeply, smiles again at the man as he closes his eyes and continues his prayer – and she slowly walks on.  

None of what she has lived seems to matter in this moment.

She whispers a short prayer that matches her walking speed and her breathing. She is thankful. Thankful for the gift of this moment, this beautiful night and for.....well...thankful for right now. And then she feels like she kind of gets it. She understands a microscopic fraction of what the kind man praying, pouring over scripture must know.

She moves on, speeding up, deep in thought about the stark contrast of this brief but sweet and very personal interaction and the sound of the New Year’s Eve party-fest that seemed to be happening all around her.

She says it to God as if stamping it into her life for the New Year – wanting it to be emboldened on her heart. She whispers it: This moment is okay. This is real. Right here. And I am not in charge. And I am so relieved.

It feels in her heart as if she has spoken this new reality into a loud microphone because of the depth at which it falls into her heart. She offers her little whispered prayer like a little Ebenezer into the brisk night.

She has no idea how long she has been gone but it feels like she has been on an epic journey. She makes a U-turn on the tidy little, tree lined street and heads back. Back to her home. Back to life. Back to the routine. But not the same. She is new…like the New Year. 

How are you "new" as you anticipate the coming year? 

Megan's Take:  How am I new as I anticipate the coming year?  Oh man.  I just hope I AM new in some way.  The last thing I want to be after 365 days is the same old me. I hope and pray that with the coming of each new year I am actually uncovering, bit by bit, the "original" me -- the me that God designed to live for HIS purposes here on this earth.  At this age, there seems to be something "magical" about the new year because it brings with it a sense of "what-have-I-got-to-lose?"   Heaven knows I'm not getting any younger! What's the big deal if I take a risk or two or ten?  I love that the woman in this story knows what she needs and is not afraid to take it.  She had plenty of things she could have busied herself with at home, but she chose to take a walk and soak up the night air.  She stopped to smell the roses, as they say, and pondered the moment in front of that window.  She noticed a man living into a peace and a reality she wanted to claim as her own.  I pray 2015 brings many such moments.  Moments that make me stop and take notice. Moments that take my breath away.  Moments that bring me face to face with another and change me for the better.  Moments that reveal where true peace comes from.

Holly's Take:  My favorite snippet from the short story is, and I quote, "She says it to God as if stamping it into her life for the New Year – wanting it to be emboldened on her heart. She whispers it: This moment is okay. This is real. Right here. And I am not in charge. And I am so relieved."  

To even say out loud, "what I want in 2015, is  . . . , " feels like I am setting myself up for some sort of jinxing.  I know that is fairly seventh grade-ish, but I have a lot more peace, when I can think, "here I am . . . today . . . .I don't have as much control as I want, but make me new, Jesus."  Chances are, I'll forget I ever wrote that, and I'll just keep trying to stay in charge.  I guess I'll have to make it my New Year's Resolution, to hold my resolutions very loosely.