Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: 2024: Looking ahead

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz



Published: 12-31-2023 7:00 AM

Modified: 01-01-2024 7:21 PM

The New Year is finally here, so what can we hope for and look forward to in the year ahead?

“New Year’s Day” is a (re)start, a “tabula rasa/clean slate,” an opportunity to think and do anew.

With whatever metrics one uses, 2023 (last year), was an especially tough cycle for so many reasons that affected so many of us. What follows is one person’s attempt to generate new hope, shed new light, and discern the possibilities for what potentially lies ahead.

Being a pragmatic optimist by nature, I take to heart that we, the people, have options and opportunities to create greater positivity in ourselves, our communities, and our nation and the world-writ-large. Nothing in life comes easily for the vast majority of us. We have to want, to will, and to work diligently for whatever it is we care about most. Are we willing to take on the challenges, the broken places and systems, and the focus and energies to build and rebuild what is most needed?

We’ve recently completed an election cycle that brought us a new mayor, new school committee members, and, soon enough, new members and chairs of committees and commissions. We can be hopeful that, given the elected officers’ mandates, things will move forward for the best: greater care and concern for those whose needs don’t receive enough attention, decisive responses and action regarding community-based environmental and social issues, better funding for our public K-12 education system, and greater accountability for and from our police department, for starters. For all of this and more to transpire, more of us must be willing to bring our voices, visions, energies, and creativity to the table in any way(s) that we are able. This is not a wish, but an urgent and fervent need.

We can hope for more and greater truth to be shared, understood, and acted upon in all our human endeavors. For this to happen, a higher level of open-mindedness and level-headedness will be required, not only from our elected officials, but from all the rest of us — citizens, residents, workers, families, young people, taxpayers, renters, and homeowners, among others.

Let’s hope that not all of the answers to our problems are solely focused on money and finances. Everywhere, there is an ever greater need to treat one another with kindness, respect, honesty, transparency, and care. These cost little, or nothing. We get nowhere if we cannot see and act upon our problems without these relational actions.

Building strong relationships and networks is virtually free — it is our choice to engage in the work of building, refining, and refreshing them. Random acts of kindness, performed every day and everywhere, will help to promote care and connection. We are all capable of manifesting them. What matters most is taking time to listen and learn and being respectful in how we respond to one another and to all that makes life challenging.

With everything going on, let’s be real. Pretending that things are OK (or even becoming significantly better) is to ignore and/or deny that our community struggles with challenges that are typical everywhere. Speaking truth, keeping our eyes open, protecting each other’s backs — they all matter. So do all of us.

This year ahead, one that started for you when you awakened at some point today, is fraught with all manner of political divisiveness and bifurcation, as well as emotional, social, and financial hardship, including the broken human systems that have been designed to support us to live in peace. Welcoming the new while letting go of the old and what hasn’t worked may pave the way for the positive changes we seek and strive for. What will it take to respond proactively to all of last year’s unresolved difficulties?

Many of us take on the annual ritual of making New Year’s vows (some call them determinations, wishes, or aspirations). We share, write, and enumerate these to better ourselves, our lives, and the most special relationships we are blessed to have. Sadly, many of these wishes break down over time, perhaps due to a lack of strength, stamina, support, and care. I am hoping that this year, we can envision and enact these hopes with a focus on one another, our community, and the systems that have failed many of us for too long.

It is possible to work together, to collaborate, to engage, for the greater common good. When we hear or observe or experience good things happening around us, it can and should bring us greater strength and resolve to have more of the goodness and kindness that touches us, that captures our hearts. Let’s make this new year ahead a time and a place to emphasize the good and the goodness that is inherent within us, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the many challenges that lie ahead.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. He is former chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and his two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at