John Carlson: Time for self-improvement!

Some resolutions are tastier than others. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonSome resolutions are tastier than others. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

It’s time to start making New Year’s resolutions, an annual endeavor in which I am commonly guided by four little words.

The easier the better.

For example, I could vow to lose 30 pounds in 2017, but I’d be setting myself up for failure, my chances of losing 30 pounds being roughly equal to my chances of Donald Trump naming me ambassador to Sweden. Why invite such disappointment?

But suppose, instead, I resolve to eat more onion rings?

By some measures, it’d be a challenge. Let’s say I ate, oh, a thousand onion rings in 2016, for an average, I’m guessing, of about 3.17 onion rings per day.

But dang it! In my heart, I know I can do better! My Daddy didn’t raise no quitter! I guarantee to give it my best shot!

See how that works? To review, then: Pick fun resolutions. Like, promise to spend more time watching basketball, less time eating broccoli, more time zoned-in on Netflix, less time cleaning out gutters and so on.

Also, you’d be wise to pick resolutions that are impossible for others to confirm or quantify. Say you loudly announce your resolution to put a hot tub on the back deck and invite everybody over for a big party. But you then fail to put a hot tub on the back deck or invite anybody over for a big party.

All your friends are going to know you’re a resolution loser.

Far better, then, to simply announce a somewhat nebulous resolution, like in 2017 you are going to be “more understanding.” This, of course, sounds like a good thing, and it is. But if, try as you might, it turns out you are just as understanding as you were last year, or – heaven forbid – less understanding than you were last year, you can take comfort in the fact that nobody is going to call you out on it.

Unlike dieting, being more understanding won’t make your pants any looser. On the other hand, being less understanding won’t make them any tighter, either.

Of course, the problem with choosing lame resolutions is there’s an innate human drive to improve oneself, plus to improve the lives of others, and it’s a beautiful thing. There are absolutes in this world, after all, hard as that is to remember these days when mocking the handicapped elicits cheers. Example: Resolving to help old ladies cross the street is better than resolving to kick more butt playing video games.

Why? It just is.

What’s more, this beautiful drive to help is exhibited among significant numbers of people hereabouts. I’m married to one of them. With hardly a moment’s thought, others come to mind. Chris Piche at The Fickle Peach. Jenni Marsh at United Way. Mark Di Fabio at Woof Boom Radio. Kelli Huth at Ball State University. Terri Panszi at ARF. Al Holdren at Secret Families. Nancy Turner and Jen Merritt with lifetimes of kind acts and good causes.

The list goes on and on …

These folks all seem blessed with a natural “helping” gene, as are far, far, far too many others to name. Still, you know them because there’s a certain something about them. Maybe you’re even one of them.

Just consider those who feed the hungry, both during the holiday season and year-round. Those who volunteer with a wide range of social-service groups, agencies, churches and organizations. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Cops and firemen at work and on Christmas toy drives. Folks who keep an eye out for elderly neighbors. People who always seem to open doors for others.

Here on the cusp of January 1, when hopes are high for a blessed new year, these good people naturally come to mind. In fact, right about now a whole lot of them are probably making generous, loving, selfless New Year’s resolutions to do even more.

But one pathetic guy I know? He’s iffy. Very iffy.

This should make me feel small, and it does. But there’s hope. One thing I’ve learned about hanging around good people is that their goodness tends to rub off on others. Given that, here’s hoping all the good people share their special spirit with me and whoever else needs it in 2017.

In turn, they can share my onion rings.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.