Lifting the Ball

In January 1905 the New York Times moved its offices uptown to a 25 story “skyscraper” changing the name from Longacre Square to Times Square. The Times soon outgrew its new location, but the traditional “dropping of the ball,” to celebrate the New Year, stayed put. When the clock strikes 12am this Thursday night in New York, a lighted ball will drop for the 106th time and 2016 begins.

What were our hopes for the year 2015?

Did we hope that Awa and Awanga and Blessing and Comfort and the other hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted from Chibok would be freed? But not one of #bring back our girls has returned. Was it just Goodluck Jonathan who dropped the ball or was it, in a measure, all of us, the whole of humanity, who dropped the ball?

Did we hope that Alan Kurdi’s little body would be the last Syrian refugee to wash ashore on a Greek or Turkish beach? But since Alan’s lifeless body was seen around the world, more than 100 refugee children seeking asylum have drowned in the Mediterranean. Was it the Greek and Turkish governments, Germany and the European Union who dropped the ball, or was it, in a measure, all of us, the whole of humanity, who dropped the ball?

In America, did we hope that we saw the last of mass shootings, the last of police brutality and unwarranted use of force, the last of jihadi inspired terror? Who is responsible for dropping the ball on this? In some measure, it is all of us that share in that responsibility if we do not care enough, do not protest enough, do not reach out enough.

This year when the ball drops in Times Square I will ask for whom does the ball drop? And in the words of the poet the answer has always rung the same: It drops for me. Unless I make the effort to lift the ball up and, in whatever small measure I can, care enough, protest enough and reach out enough I am not acting to rectify the world. My first responsibility is to those in my family, then to those in my community, then to those in my neighborhood, and then, to all those across lines that serve to divide us from one another. Reaching out is my goal for 2016.

As I sit here writing a pang of conscience enters—since the ball will drop for me—I have to admit I dropped the ball to care about a man imprisoned for attempted murder who reached out to study Kabbalah. I will mail a letter of response to him today.

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