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Assuming the definition of the word "resolution" carries the emotional commitment to absolutely adhere to a thought or an action, then how come most of us repeatedly make the same first-of-the-year resolutions and so darn few of us stick to the stated program?

How many of these resolutions have you made in your life? I can tell you from my experience, I’ve done a bunch. The promises made to myself are loaded with good intentions. I really do want to lose weight. I want to read more books. I want to dampen the temper, and I do want to be more involved with community service. I can use more education to enhance my professional skills, but first I have to find some. Sometimes I am a little short on courtesy. And you can't imagine what words slip out of my mouth from time to time.

I am always ready, even willing, to do better. Yet amazingly I don't always end up in that direction. I'm pretty sure that surprises you. But there it is.

Oh, I congratulate myself on even stating the shortcoming(s).   Then comes a big pat on the back for recognition of a personal fault. However in the end, the end is always the same:  failure to some degree accompanied by a heavy dose of guilt. I still contend that even thinking about making a resolution is a wonderful and hopeful gesture.

However, may I suggest that we alter the approach a little this year? Let's take those good intentions and let's point outward more. Move away from the inner you and towards external directions. After all, most of us are willing to admit that the world does not revolve around us. Notice that I said most of us don't believe we are at the center. If you or someone you know truly believes, and acts on the belief that you or they are at the center, then take your usual path as regards resolutions. What we are about to suggest here will not be of interest, nor will it result in a, no doubt, necessary change.

For the rest of us flawed human beings, we can try really living in the local world. Not only is that important to us and the Gulf Coast neighborhood, but at last here is a resolution we can keep. In fact, here is a resolution we will enjoy keeping.

Let's start this resolution with a firm commitment to live locally and regionally. We will get up off the couch and meet the neighbors. Wherever we live, we will draw imaginary concentric circles of 25, 50, and 100 miles from our home. We will travel in each area as if it were a completely different country, totally apart from the area around our home. We will pay attention to the countryside, the people and how they live their lives every day. What is their history? What do they do for fun? How do they make a living? What are their special days?  What country were their ancestors from?

Chances are you and they have a lot in common, and there are probably many differences. Do this for each of your expanded circles.

After you have met the locals, visit their institutions: museums, churches, historic buildings and sites, important places that have been neglected and places well cared for. You can learn a lot about a place and its people when you see how important their society's official structures look.

Now dine with them. What are the local specialties? Where is the source for the key ingredients? And are these ingredients the best you will find anywhere? How are the meals prepared?

Then have a drink. Do they like beer from some big city not even close-by? Or do they have a local concoction? What’s the main kick-back spirit? Are the bars quiet and elegant or raucous and noisy? Do the locals sing and play games in the bars? Are conversations with strangers initiated, or are you, as an out-of-towner, ignored?

And now, let’s head for the local restaurant suggested to you by several people. Is the menu full of items you can enjoy just about anyplace else? What about the local produce, fish, or meat? Is it featured? How is it prepared?

Lastly, do you feel a sense of pride from the locals about their town? Not shallow, this-is-a-nice-place-to-live pride, but a pride that says, “I would not want to live anyplace else.”

This year make a resolution to know your neighbors. Not just those that are on your block, but those that are about an hour or more away.

And after you have taken the efforts, tell your friends. Tell them to visit a nice place nearby. Feed them some local delicacy from a place that is not home. Stay in touch with new friends you have made not from your town.

What you are doing is becoming a citizen of the region and the world. You are expanding your viewpoints by understanding the views of others. Leaving your own sphere and embracing, or at least appreciating, the philosophies and lifestyles of others makes you a better person.

That’s a real resolution to be a better person. And you are going to have a good time achieving the goal. Maybe you will not break this resolution. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.




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