- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2004

Whew. That wild, wet 2003 is finally outta here like D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance and Washington Redskins’ ball coach Steve Spurrier.

Hope that the star performer of the past year — precipitation — throws in the towel, too. If we don’t reminisce about the departed year for any other reason, it shall be remembered forever as the Year We Got Wet.

We were drenched, doused, discouraged and nearly drowned in freezing water, crystallized water and muddy water.

Century-old precipitation records were broken at every regional airport except Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the record there was saved by only a teardrop.

It’s as if the skies started crying last January and never really stopped by yuletide.

For what on earth is Mother Nature grieving? War? Death? Disease? Homelessness? Hunger? Heartache? Hate? Greed?

There is much to bemoan.

We would all do well to heed the valuable life lesson taught in the sun-dried residue after the rising waters subsided.

The Year We Got Wet taught us the need for neighborliness.

When it was man and woman against nature, we witnessed countless examples of the innate goodness of human nature as neighbor helped neighbor to survive and thrive.

Together we soak, alone we sink.

If I had one wish for the new year, it would be that all those who make personal resolutions to improve their health or finances or relationships would add to their “to-do-different” list a personal commitment to engage in one community or global project.

We may not be able to solve the world’s problems, but we may be able to make a world of difference to one needy person.

After the blizzard in February, the men in my neighborhood formed a human snowplow and dug a path to the main road.

After the hurricane in September, my neighbors joined hands for potluck picnics by candlelight with shared grills and beverage coolers.

After the Thanksgiving thundershowers, my next-door neighbor planted tulip bulbs in the bare spots in my yard.

Throughout last year, we watched news footage showing one community coming to the aid of another in the wake of natural disasters such as forest fires, earthquakes, floods and downed trees.

It has been written “many hands make the load light.”

Nowhere have I seen the adage come into play more than during my travels last month in southern Africa. There, in the tin-roofed shanty townships and mud-hut villages, people share their benefits as well as their burdens as a way of life.

I’ve returned from that soul-stirring journey with a greater appreciation for the bountiful blessings I enjoy here. As one of my traveling companions, Louise Rice, national vice president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, was prone to say, “If it gets any better, I couldn’t stand it.”

And I hope for this feeling of abundance to stay with me throughout the new year. Already I have had to remind a girlfriend who calls every morning to say “time to wake up and worry” that we have no reason to complain.

First of all, we have jobs in this frightful economy. Second, we are not walking up a muddy road in the mountains with a bale on our head and a baby on our back, headed to a straw outhouse in the cow pasture.

I’ve been there and seen a lot of seemingly very hard life.

We, on the other hand, have running water, and we are cool and dry most days, even in the Year We Got Wet.

So bring on 2004 and pray for more prosperity, peace and productive rains to satisfy my good neighbor’s tulip bulbs.

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