As I spent time thinking of how the theme this year, Live the Creed, fit into the usual thoughts associated with January, I couldn’t help but think of New Year’s Eve parties and the resolutions of the following morning. The line of the Optimist Creed that was first to seem a fit was “To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.”
That line in the Optimist Creed seems to be straight forward enough. It remains optimistic in that it encourages one to press on to the greater achievements of the future. That in itself suggests there are greater achievements to be had and reached for. One being a true Optimist takes this for granted and tackles the challenge.
The other frequent association of thoughts, poems, and songs associated with New Year’s observance is the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.” A Scot poem or story later set to the melody of a common folk song has become an everlasting ritual every New Year’s Eve. Few people really know the words and even fewer understand the true meaning of the original poem. It is referred to in the archives as “an old song.” The Scottish poet Robert Burns was given credit for having put it on paper and to melody in 1788. Bear in mind it was in Scot at the time. The title “Auld Lang Sine,” directly translates to “old long ago” and it means “good old days”.
I made the association between the song and the creed initially because I thought the lyrics, “should old acquaintances be forgotten and never brought to mind” fit well with “forget the mistakes of the past.” After finding a number of translations from the original Scot writing, it became clear to me the meaning was actually “a call to remember old friends as time marches on.” The actual meaning of “For Auld Lang Syne” was “for the sake of old times.” The song is about remembering kindness and love that was experienced in the past.
Clearing up the translation appeared to me to throw a real crimp in my association of the two poems, the one by Robert Burns in 1788 and the one by Christian Larson in 1912. It is much clearer than one might initially see. Acquaintances aren’t the same as mistakes. Mistakes, as written by Christian Larson who came to be known as a motivational writer, need to be forgotten in order to move on to the greater achievements of the future. We cannot continue to focus on the failures as a way and an excuse to prevent us from accomplishing the successes of the future. The poem by Robert Burns calls for us to remember our old friends as time marches on.
We, as Optimists, can remember our old acquaintances, particularly those who were once members of our own clubs. Remembering those acquaintances, many of them very near and dear to us, can in itself pose for us a challenge and a New Year’s resolution. Optimist International began keeping records in digital form in 1991. Since the beginning of that practice, the Pacific Northwest District has revoked or disbanded sixty-seven clubs for a loss of more than 414 members. Since those numbers were provided to me, an additional five clubs have been revoked, disbanded, or sent letters of intent to do so.
This provides us the opportunity for a New Year’s resolution as well as a worthwhile challenge as Optimist members. “For the sake of the old times,” we need to rekindle the enthusiasm of our old friends. We need to remember the times that were so great when we were larger and healthier as a district. In a short phrase we need, “to press on to the greater achievements of the future.” Those greater achievements need to include a personal focus on the part of every active member to seek out those who may have left us as well as those who have yet to have been introduced and invite them to one of our local functions. In that way you will be one to “press on to the greater achievements of the future.”
Happy New Year to each and every one of you. January can be so exciting to those who consider themselves to be Optimists.