Let's resolve to spread happiness each day the whole year through

(Publisher Ed Forry first wrote these words in 2005. It is a sentiment that bears being repeated, we believe. Here's to a great 2008.)

It was a wonderful holiday meal, an evening out with special friends in a North End restaurant. The festive season was winding down, the new year was underway, the food was ample, the company superb.

Who here has made any resolutions this year, someone asked, and what are they? The 10 friends looked awkwardly at each other, a bit embarrassed really. New Year's resolutions? Who bothers with them anymore? They never last anyway, and besides, in these frantic times, who has time to look inward, to assess their lives, their goals? Don't the everyday doings of the world pass us by, helter skelter, never giving us any chance to plan, to savor, to enjoy?

Then one of us spoke: I have a resolution, she said, and I plan to keep it: I will make just one person happy each day. With a pleasant word, maybe just a smile, or a word of greeting, a hello. Just one, maybe more. Every day, all year.

How simple, we thought, can't you do a little better than that? What about world peace? Or an end to famine? A cure for cancer? Some help for those thousands whose lives were ended or destroyed by the tsunamis? Or how about another Red Sox pennant, or a Super Bowl win, or a campaign victory in that upcoming special election?

Nope, those are wishes, not resolutions. You might want those things, you might even be able to do some little thing about them; but they are just hopes, dreams, notions not really to be expected because they're more than any of us can accomplish individually.

But a resolution - a resolve for the new year - is something within reach, something our simple actions can actually effect. A smile, a courteous word, a gentle touch, a handshake, a long-postponed phone call, a hug for someone who needs it, a greeting card to a person living with loneliness, a cup of tea with the friend we haven't seen, a knock on the door with the neighbor locked in for the long winter. All things we can do, every one of us, with little effort and with modest, if any, expense.

So resolve to lose weight, or curtail your bad habits. Promise yourself to quit smoking, or to start exercising, or to eat healthy. Watch your carbs, reduce the fats in the food you eat. Read the nutrition patch on the food you buy, and resolve to improve yourself in whatever way that softens the guilt built up over the years of excesses that have become part of our lifestyles. Maybe, just maybe, such resolutions will actually become part of who you are this year. Or if you're like me during these few days this far into twenty-oh-eight, you've already forgotten most of those self-made pledges pronounced with such resolve just a few days ago.

But there's time still to try out my friend's simple resolution, and it can start today. It's really quite easy - make someone happy with a simple gesture of kindness, today, tomorrow, and all the days ahead. We really do need each other, now and always. To be kind and caring is part of who we are: It is the essential part of what has been called the "Irish Heart".

For love is best manifested not in the receiving, but in the giving. And in the simple gesture of making some other person's life a little happier, a little better each day, our own life is fulfilled.