Wishing a dose of dissatisfaction–and hope

Every new year brings us the chance to cast off something old and troublesome; to look for, and in, new directions; and to make a fresh start at something good and worthwhile.
Every decade seems to develop its special character. This century’s achievements have crowned those of at least the five preceding ones.
What a privilege we have, then, to witness the turn of a millennium! What a transition!
First, let me describe the biggest transition in my life so far. I was 14, just turning from child to adult. That year we left Germany, still suffering from war wounds, where my parents could at best have afforded grade 10 for me.
We came to Canada–a country of vast spaces, freedoms, and opportunities; a brand new high school with free bus service; the chance to win scholarships and find paid summer jobs.
The school impressed me. The four new stoves and fridges in the Home Economics department! A fully outfitted shop for the boys! The new typewriters were as grand then as new computers are now. Only the new gymnasium was not quite ready.
As a result, my last childhood Christmas became special, too.
Very near the high school was a country church with a young people’s meeting hall. The school authorities arranged for our first high school Christmas assembly to be held there.
It is especially memorable. The hall was beautifully decorated, and I saw my first Christmas tree with electric, coloured lights. The place was crowded and festive, and the teachers were proud of their performing pupils.
I was transfixed by the song “O Holy Night,” flawlessly delivered by a grade 12 student with a beautiful voice. I had never heard it before, and it is still my favourite.
That was 1956, and I didn’t think about transitions then. I was busy learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture, and waffling between youthful rebellion and wheedling for privileges. It’s hindsight that makes that year so special.
Now, like most readers of this column, I have the advantages of life experience, schooling, travel, and having my brain stretched by many demands. I see the past differently than I did; I enjoy the memories, but the present and future is more important.
Many people seem less pleased than “back then” with today’s school system, health care, job situation, social services, politics, and governance–you name it.
I think most of the discontent is due to higher standards. If so, isn’t that good?!
The first phase of any practical learning and constructive change is the combination of dissatisfaction and hope. If we thought all was just fine, we would have no reason to change things; and if we were too discouraged, we wouldn’t bother trying.
So, for crossing the millennial threshold successfully, I wish everyone a healthy dose of dissatisfaction and hope.

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