To My Neighbors

Dear fellow residents of Littletown, New Jersey,

It’s been a heavy year in many respects, from the implosion of government in Washington to the vast network of #metoo revelations, the relentless natural disasters, and the pervading sense that we are losing our grip on the courtesies that separate us from Jack’s gang in Lord of the Flies. On a daily basis, it may be the lack of civility that bothers me the most. My extended family disagrees about practically everything, but this is the first year that I was glad I wasn’t seeing them for the holidays. I also avoided parties where there might be a) conservatives and b) alcohol because I was afraid that violence would break out—mine, if no one else’s.

Which brings me to my New Year’s resolution: I’m going to dial it down a little.

I don’t usually make resolutions. They tend to be self-defeating: Lose 20 pounds? Bwahaha! says my middle-aged metabolism. Design the life I love? As soon as my Lotto check arrives. Last year’s aspiration—to become active in local causes—dissolved in a shower of ashes as I alternately wept, whined, and huddled under the covers to avoid the nightly news. It’s hard to change the world when you’re wearing earplugs and muttering obscenities.

Yet some sort of action seems called for. Therefore, be it resolved that in 2018:

· I will not give you the finger for tailgating me on Wyoming Avenue. Instead, I will either increase my speed or pull off to the side to let you pass. Maybe your wife is in labor or you’re rushing to testify for Bob Mueller. Either way, your need is greater than mine.

· I will not rat out my neighbors who don’t shovel their sidewalks. It’s always better to resolve things in person, right? Or, failing that, an unsigned note giving them 24 hours to get the job done before I call the public works department?

· I will not judge you for patronizing the Littletown Starbucks. If you choose to drink capitalist swill in the seventh circle of developer hell, that’s your business.

· I will not insult members of the School Board, the Littletown Township Committee, or the South Village Board of Trustees on social media. No matter how misguided they are, or how much better a job I would do if I got off my ass and ran for office, I will strive to be respectful. To this end, I will stop reminding everyone that I have two Ivy League degrees and therefore know more about merging the fire department and hiring a new district superintendent than anyone else in this hemisphere.

In this holiday season, I invite you to join me in resolving to be a little bit less of a jerk in 2018. As the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.”

It may not change the world, but it will make our town a better place.

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