Here we are.
A fresh start. A clean slate. A new year.
Many of you are probably starting slowly this morning, your ears still ringing from a party or some fireworks or the Clemson game or whatever New Year’s Eve revelry you might have gotten into.
Still, more than a few folks will make it into church this morning, and then set about various New Year’s Day traditions, including watching copious amounts of football and, of course, partaking in a meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas, which are said to bring you money and good luck in the New Year.
Black-eyed peas, I can live with those. My wife actually makes a delicious black-eyed pea dip that goes great with tortilla chips.
Greens? That’s another story. Index-Journal publisher Judi Burns has long lambasted me for my aversion to leafy vegetables, greens among them. This despite the fact I’ve often joked in print that she found me 12 years ago eating kudzu on the side of the road, took pity on me and offered me a job.
(After I made the joke a few times, she actually cooked me a kudzu quiche. It was admittedly tasty.)
But, tradition is tradition, and I’m not one to buck the idea of good fortune in the New Year, so I’ll have a bit of greens today. Throw a little hot sauce on them, wash it down with some iced tea and I’ll be good to go for 2017.
I think it’s safe to say there are many who are not just looking forward to 2017, but also to putting 2016 in the rearview mirror. It was a trying year for some.
It was a year which brought one of the most caustic, acrimonious presidential campaigns many can remember. Regardless of outcome, I think most would agree the race, and all of the noise surrounding it, divided many of us. Quite bitterly, in some cases. I watched as lifelong friends assailed each other on social media, sometimes saying things that will be awfully hard to take back.
It also was a year of loss, one in which notable people left us in seemingly inordinate abundance.
On the local level in 2016, we said goodbye to political stalwarts, such as District 4 state Sen. Billy O’Dell, who died back in January, and John Drummond, a state senator for 40-plus years, who died in September.
I likely don’t have to remind you of the public figures and celebrities who left us in 2016. There are far too many of those deaths to list in full here, but rest assured some of the titans of music (Prince, David Bowie), sports (Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali) and American life in general (former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn) passed on last year. In recent days, many film fans have mourned the Dec. 27 death of “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher, a bit of heartbreak that was compounded when her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died the very next day. That was sort of 2016 in a nutshell.
But there are lessons we can learn from the events of 2016 that I believe we can use to make 2017 a better year. I know everyone has different individual New Year’s resolutions, some of which we stick to, and some of which we don’t. But, hopefully, we can stick to these.
Let’s resolve to a greater level of respect for one another this year. In life, on social media, wherever. Don’t let politics divide friends. Y’all, we are more than politics. In reality, all of us -- white and black, young and old, Democrat and Republican, whatever -- have more in common than you realize. Be kind, be brave and help each other, and I promise we’ll be OK, together.
And let’s also resolve to let those we hold dear -- friends, family -- know what they mean to us. It seems simple, but we often fail in that area. I know I do. But as 2016 showed us, life is precious. The ones who mean so much to you today might not be here tomorrow. We’ve only got so much time, so let’s make it count.
So, eat your greens and black eyed peas. Relax and enjoy the holiday. Then let’s get to work making 2017 the best year anyone can remember.
Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter@ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.