Over the past week, I’ve received a long series of “Happy New Year” wishes. I know it’s a simple and lovely sentiment, but I found myself stumbling over the words this year. Maybe it’s because of how I spend my days, in contact with people in my personal or professional life who are declining slowly or quickly because of age or health issues that make it hard for me to force the words out either to them or to their immediate families. They know and I know that this next year will be anything but “happy.”

Then again, maybe it’s just about using a more holistic idea of what happy means, rather than the “happy face” emoji the word evokes. I believe it was Mother Teresa who said many years ago that some of the happiest people she had ever met were living in poverty on the streets of Mumbai.  For her, it was about people being very okay with their lots in life, finding balance with a true sense of what was important and what wasn’t. They had a sense of their “space” and “place” in their lives, with a focus more on the spiritual than the material.

I’ve met those people here as well who share that same worldview, people facing overwhelming challenges and even impending death with grace. They are grateful for the people in their lives and for the gifts of life. They inspire me.

 They would embrace being told “Happy New year” and would be the first to offer those words to others. So, I’ll follow their lead:

Happy new year to you all, and may you handle all the opportunities and challenges of the coming year with equal grace, powered always by love and gratitude.

Shabbat shalom,   Rabbi Allan