On this New Year I imagine myself being on a cross road. In front of me there are four roads for me to choose from. Which are the four roads? First road is one of laziness and inactivity. Second road leads you to follow the leaders living selfish life without any moral principle. Third road is one that leads you to unjust and untruthful life. The fourth road leads you to true life on the path of justice and morality. Which road you will take is a vital question.
Certainly I will take the fourth road of justice and morality leading to truthful living. I feel that to be steadfastly on my chosen path a New Year resolution will be a great help. Then comes a question. What resolution of the new year will be helpful and encouraging me to be on the chosen path of justice and morality? My new year resolution is to follow my conscience. Yes, I know that on the cross roads of my life most suitable resolution is to follow my conscience. Even if the other choices at the cross roads of life are attractive and tantalizing but they eventually lead me to unhappiness and destruction.
Behind my resolution to follow my conscience there are my telling experiences. For instance, I went to New Zealand in October 2016. My nephew Shaju, who lives there, has been inviting me for years to visit him. “Uncle, you travel so many times abroad, why don’t you visit me in New Zealand and spend your holidays with us?” I have been telling him that I have been going to foreign countries only to attend international meetings and seminars but not for holidays.
Then one day late in 2015 I told Shaju that I have an invitation to attend the World Conference of International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) at Philippines as a resource person. So there is a possibility of my going to the world conference.
“Uncle, then you can visit me either before or after the World Congress at Philippines,” Shaju said. Then after inquiring the details of the World Congress and my availability, Shaju booked my air ticket via Manila to Oakland and back to India. Consequently from October 16th I was able to spend 11 days with Shaju and family in New Zealand.
Two things of the people of New Zealand impressed me deeply during my trip to that great country and I got the inspiration for my new year resolution. Shaju is working in the Social Service Department of the Health Ministry in New Zealand. His wife Mini is working in the biggest government hospital at Oakland as a nurse. Speaking and discussing with them about their life in New Zealand I learned two things about the New Zealand people. First, the people’s appreciation for human life and second, the trustworthiness of the people.
First, the appreciation of human life and the concern and care for life concretely shown in charitable, loving services. A few years back when a few people died in an accident in a coalmine the people in entire New Zealand were plunged into sadness and bereavement. The people felt the sorrow not just for a day or two but for a long, long time and expressed their concern and care not only in the mass media but also in their daily lives. I heard often about it from Shaju’s phone calls and letters for a long time.
This time on my visit Shaju narrated to me a concrete experience. As part of his service he drives an office van to visit recovered or recovering patients in their homes to enquire and assure their welfare after they have been discharged from the hospital. The patients take regular medication, do physical exercises themselves, and that they have sufficient-social life, outdoor games, etc. are Shaju’s concern as a social worker. Often he himself takes groups of them in his van entertaining them in sports grounds and public parks.
One day Shaju was driving his van to the house of a patient. On the way a car driver coming very fast from a roadside bungalow hit his van making it spin and overturn. Both the vehicles suffered much damage. But fortunately both the drivers escaped unhurt. Shaju immediately phoned his office and informed about the accident.
After medical test Shaju was told that he may go home and take two-three days of rest before resuming his duty. Shaju told the officer above him that he is mentally and physically fit to continue on his job and he took another office vehicle and went on to do his routine responsibilities.
Later the investigation revealed that the car driver was under the influence of drugs and that he has been punished twice before with imprisonment for similar offences. Narrating the incident Shaju said, that there was no differentiation between a local citizen and a foreigner like him but the authorities treated all people with a sense of equality, justice for all and with equanimity. He did not feel that he was a foreigner there.
With the appreciation of human life by all people in New Zealand the second thing which impressed me most was the trustworthiness of all the people. In other words the people in New Zealand are truthful and straight forward. I will give you an example. When I was in Auckland Shaju’s son, Jovin, was on his way to Auckland University. He stopped his car at a traffic signal. Then a car hit his car with some force. Both the drivers escaped unhurt but both their cars suffered some damage; but they could proceed to their destination.
Back home Jovin narrated the incident to Shaju. My nephew said to his son. “You are safe so there is nothing to worry. The car has insurance. Tomorrow when you go to the university take the car and give to a garage to estimate the damage and do the repair work. In the evening I will pick you up from your university main gate.”
On the third day Shaju got a call from the car insurance. “Your car is damaged so much that it is not worth repairing. We will get you your full insurance money in 2 days time. The money will be transferred to your bank account.”
“Uncle,” Shaju told me, “Here people do not do any cheating in anything. They don’t tolerate any falsehood. They fully believe in the people and in what they say. Like in India there is no controversy and search for truth and negotiation.”
My experience is that here many of us tell lies without any shame or prick of conscience. People stealthily take bribes and do underhand dealings. Among such people my New Year resolution to follow my conscience, I believe, is a great challenge for me and for all people. But such a difficult resolution is necessary in the long run to make our lives more loving, peaceful and enjoyable. Let us then decide to take this difficult New Year resolution and firmly decide to adhere to it rising up as often us we fall. In the final analysis if you want to live a peaceful life and enjoy the love and respect of other people such a resolution and adhering to it resolutely is absolutely necessary.
In such a situation I am firmly convinced that the ideas expressed in an ancient hymn will be realized:
“Love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will embrace.” (Psalms 85: 10).
Wish you a Happy New Year 2019.
Changed On: 16-12-2018
Next Change: 01-01-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018