Abbie Berringer: A new kind of New Year's resolution

Monday, January 14, 2019 - 2:45pm

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Every New Year’s Day, my timeline is filled with New Year’s resolutions and claims that the next year will be “the very best one yet.” My peers are going to get in shape, eat healthier and study harder. They also, often times, reflect on the geopolitical landscape of the previous year. They are always hoping the next year brings less war and more peace, less corruption and more transparency, and there is an overall sentiment of hope that the world will hang on by a thread for one more year. As the days pass on, people may hit the gym and put blood, sweat and tears into keto diets. However, when it comes to the state of the world, it seems most of us do little more than keep our fingers crossed.

It has been overstated, etched on decorative pillows, and clichéd to an almost unbearable degree that one must “be the change you want to see in the world.” Yet few New Year’s resolutions that have hit my social media timelines in the past few days have included any community service plans. We as a society are obsessed with personal improvement kicks, but hardly ever do these trendy diets or yoga plans include community improvement initiative. What if this New Year’s, alongside our book lists and workout plans, we made plans to volunteer in our communities one day a week or even just one day a month?

We sit behind our computer screens discussing the latest National Geographic article about the abuse of plastics, yet how many of our New Year’s resolutions involve volunteering to clean up roadways and parks? We live in one of the coldest states in the continental United States, and yet how many of us will donate old blankets or boots to the local homeless shelters? Many of us will save up money for new phones, watches or Lululemon leggings, but how many of us will donate to relief efforts to help rebuild smoldering communities in California? We have arguably the best children’s hospital in the state in our backyard, but how many of us will volunteer there this year?

On this subject, I admit that I am a hypocrite. As I sat in my home this New Year’s Eve, trying desperately to stay awake long enough to see the ball in Times Square drop, I thought about how little I had done for others in the past year. I hardly volunteered in my community at all. I didn’t donate my time or resources to any local charities. Overall, I was not a citizen with a true commitment to bettering the world around me. For a moment, I made excuses for myself, such as: trying to boost my GPA, I was sick quite a few times or I had a hard summer. Yet, none of these excuses made up for all the hours of Twitter scrolling and Domino’s eating that had sucked up so much of my time and money into wholly self-gratifying efforts.

The truth is that we are all busy. We all have things in our personal lives we want to improve. Sometimes we do need to focus on ourselves by ordering a pizza and binging Pirates of the Caribbean, but what if this year we made some time in our calendars for helping our communities as well? Imagine all that we could change if every student at the University of Michigan donated just a little bit of their time to volunteering in Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas. We live in a bubble as highly privileged college students attending one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, yet every time we look at our phones or turn on the news, we see how small that bubble truly is. The world around us can most definitely be better in 2019 than it was in years past, but maybe this year, instead of merely crossing our fingers while we run on the treadmill, we can make resolutions to be a part of the solution.

Abbie Berringer can be reached at abbierbe@umich.edu.