Ten New Year's resolutions for a more abundant family life
1. Turn off the television. Believe it or not, one can simply walk over and turn off the knob. The fact that more people watched the last episode of M*A*S*H than voted in the last presidential election is an indication that we need to wean ourselves from the tube.
2. Read. What to do with the hours from the TV? Remember reading and the public library? Many public libraries offer reading programs and films for children. Records, books, cassettes, and sometimes reproductions of paintings are available on loan for adults. Reading aloud is one way to involve the entire family.
3. Eat together. With the television turned off (and consequently no TV dinners), the emphasis turns to what is being eaten. Eating together can mean pitching in to prepare the dinner.
4. Pass on the good news. One of my father's favorite expressions was, ''If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.'' Some might tend to disagree, but there is a great deal of gratuitous bad news floating around - news that does no earthly good repeated.
5. Set aside one day of rest each week. Many religions observe one day of rest for personal renewal and spiritual reflection. The New England bean pot gave the cook a day off, because strict Puritan belief forbade work of any kind on the Sabbath. Cholent is a Jewish casserole also left in the oven and eaten on the Sabbath, thus relieving the cook.
We all need at least one day of rest from the rush and commercial bustle of modern life.
6. Tape letters to distant relatives and friends. The majority of people would rather talk than write a letter, but long-distance calls are expensive. Too often, parents, sisters, and brothers scattered across the country drift into a twice-a-year communication.
The answer to this problem may be a tape-recorded letter which may be made in the car, at the beach, in the kitchen, during lunch hour. The tape can be recycled by the person at the other end and sent back. A 90-minute tape recording gives an entire family an opportunity to relate the events of their busy daily lives.
7. Play games that stimulate the imagination and active participation. The alternative to reading is games. No, not video or store-bought games.
What did families do before television? They listened to live music, sang, read aloud, performed in pageants and charades, took sleigh- and hayrides. The choice was, and still is, endless.
8. Make one friend who holds beliefs different from your own or lives in a different environment. In America this would seem a fairly easy resolution, yet many people gravitate toward friends of the same religious, political, or economic status.
We don't have to agree with others, but we and our children should know why we choose certain beliefs and not others.
Try on someone else's shoes. Invite an exchange student to visit. Eat at an ethnic restaurant. To share in a diversity of human resources establishes a new forbearance and awareness in families, in the community, and in the world.
9. Give all year long. Gifts at Christmas seem more of a burden as the technological world expands and introduces more gadgets. One simple solution is to remember special people with simple gifts throughout the year.
Vacations and summer are especially full of small personal gifts - the seashell found on the beach, a gift from the garden. Children do expect Christmas gifts. They might already have forgotten the pair of swim goggles they so desperately wanted last summer. We can make the purchase and save the gift for Christmas. Our thoughtfulness carries a greater significance than going on a last-minute holiday spending spree.
10. Discover silence. We don't have to be alone to be silent, nor must we be lonely. A family may sit in front of a blazing fire or stand on a dock looking up at the stars and not say a word. Silence communicates and can join together.
As individuals, we may use silence to understand our thoughts and remain in touch with dreams and emotions. For some, resorting to silence becomes too great a test. On with the television, video games, rock music blaring through head phones. But in small doses silence can teach us about ourselves and others, allowing for purpose and growth.