Editor's note —This viewpoint was first shared with readers Jan. 1, 2013. It remains all too applicable and, therefore, bears repeating as we enter 2014.

Welcome to another new year. So, now what?
You can spend a lot of time ruminating about the year that was. That will no doubt include reminiscing, smiling, crying, mourning, perhaps even regretting. There is nothing wrong with reflecting on the past year; just don’t spend too much time doing so, especially if it is to no real positive end.
Instead, consider the year that lies ahead and what can be done with it. What should be done with it. And consider your role.
How will you affect the year? Will you be an agent of positive change? Will you endeavor to do something you have not done before, whether it be for yourself, your family or your community? Will you become more involved in the lives of others through your church, civic clubs, community activism or even political office?
With each year, we have an opportunity to build. We can build upon our own foundations, improving who and what we are. We can build upon our home, work and community foundations in like fashion.
We know what we like and dislike about ourselves, if we apply honest introspection. We also know what we can change, if we choose. Similarly, we can opt to make positive changes in the world around us. Sure, it takes commitment and time and perseverance. What doesn’t, when it is something worthwhile?
But before you head out the door today or tomorrow with a new outlook on yourself and the world around you, full of drive and ambition to initiate change, keep things in check. Not everyone will see things the way you see them. Not everyone will agree what you want to change needs changing.
We are a diverse world, even here in the Lakelands. Sure, the majority of people here are Christians of one denomination or another. Yes, we live in a fairly conservative area of the state. But we do have differences; we are not all, as the saying goes, cut from the same cloth. And before we can truly effect change, we need to recognize that and be willing to listen to others, aspire to understand their points of view and work together toward a common goal.

To do so takes courage. It also takes a willingness to listen — that’s listen, not simply hear — to what others say. And it takes compromise.
Don’t mistake this listening and acceptance of our very diverse community to mean you must accept everything and everyone. Some people mistake the word “tolerance” for such, thinking it implies one must blindly accept another, even if doing so goes against their own morals and principles.
Truth is, “tolerance” is likely a poor choice of words for it automatically has a negative implication in and of itself. To tolerate is to put up with something or someone even though you would rather not. It is a bit like the dog on a short chain that must tolerate the fact it cannot reach the cat just beyond its reach. Were the chain to break, that tolerance is gone.
And so, as you march into the new year, whether with an established agenda of positive change or no particular agenda at all, remember you march with many others who are also looking to what the future might bring and how they might be a part of that future.
Seek not only how you can walk together toward unified goals, but also how you can walk along differing paths that eventually lead you to a compromise goal that is beneficial to most, if not all.
Lord knows we could use more unification in this country than division.