by Jude Southerland Kessler …

“Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see,
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out.
It doesn’t matter much to me…”
John Winston Lennon … “Strawberry Fields”

Over the last few months (as the pandemic continues to drag on and on and on … and politics has turned venomous), I’ve shied away from the news. I find it difficult to endure the overload of anger, hatred, and vitriolic accusations. And so, I tell myself it’s all right to withdraw, to duck back inside ye olde shell. “Life is to be enjoyed!” I tell myself. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this: the news is never good.

In his classic song, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” John Lennon voiced a similar opinion: “Living is easy with eyes closed/ Misunderstanding all you see”! And he was right. Life goes so much smoother if you don’t know the details. Reality is better when it’s a little fuzzy around the edges.

But wait!!

Was John really advocating living in denial, or was he pointing out (in typical Lennonesque satirical fashion) how very wrong that sort of attitude is? Wasn’t John constantly asking us to re-examine our values, motives, and actions in songs such as “Instant Karma?” In thought-provoking Christmas carols such as “Happy Christmas (War is Over)?” Didn’t he challenge us to seek out workable, positive solutions during trying times and change the world peacefully in “Revolution?”

Then, perhaps, the wry lyrics of “Strawberry Fields” are John’s way of pointing out that “living with eyes closed” is NOT what we’re called to do. It’s not how we’re called to live.

In 2021, the answer to “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is still a resounding “Yes!!!!” We’re still inexorably linked to the poor, the war-torn, the abused, the neglected, the sick, the isolated, the hurt, the bullied, and the lonely. (“Ah, look at all the lonely people!” Paul McCartney penned. Yes, he saw it, too.)

Watching hours and hours of current events and televised news may not be the happiest habit. And, certainly, watching it without putting lifestyle changes into action is fruitless and empty. But maybe this year, we can OPEN our eyes, take a good look at the world around us, and then do something. Maybe right now, at this moment, we can decide to make 2021 the year in which we:

Write a letter to a congressman or congresswoman
Volunteer now to work in the 2022 election (It’s just around the corner, you know)
Give (a little or a lot) to a good cause
Contribute a song, quote, video or photo to the Moments page on Facebook to lift someone’s spirits
Tweet something inspiring
Champion a cause
Plant a neighborhood garden or invite others to plant and harvest, free of charge, on property you own
Tutor a child (or an adult) on Zoom, Skype or Facetime
Get groceries for someone at curbside pickup
Host a free Zoom webinar to keep people entertained and looking forward to something fun
Clean up your neighborhood or city park
Text 3 people each morning who need your happy “Hello!”
Rake someone’s leaves or trim their shrubbery
Call someone who is lonely and just chat
Knit a scarf for someone who works in the cold … winter will be here before you know it!
Take in a rescue dog or cat
Encourage someone to make his or her dream come true
If you have the ability, volunteer to edit someone’s college paper or manuscript or article, free of charge (I have four wonderful people doing this for me right now, and it is such an overwhelming gift of love!)
Reconnect with a lost friend
Stand up for what you believe
Give sincere compliments (You know, the things you think privately but never have the courage to say!)
Withhold judgments
Teach someone to do something you do well (Whether that’s baking chocolate chip cookies, understanding a poem, framing out an exercise room, playing guitar, or caning furniture … you can teach anyone anything on Skype or Zoom)
Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in that lonnnnng coffee drive-up line
Buy lunch for your grocery store curbside staff or your postal workers
Run out and give cold drinks to your sanitation workers on the next warm day
Let someone cut in front of you in traffic
Thank a first responder
Plan a weekend surprise for your family (For our last anniversary, my husband planned a 3-hour drive through Louisiana’s back roads with great photo ops!)
Offer to cook dinner for your significant other
Write a positive review of a product, store, book, movie … or something!

This, of course, is a mere springboard to get your ideas bouncing here, there and everywhere. I’m sure you can think of a zillion other ways to reach out to those around you. In fact, I can see you thinking about it already.

Look, guys, it’s 2021 … the year that we said was “going to be better.” If you’re finding that, thus far, 2021 is far from wonderful, maybe we can tweak a few things. Instead of living with eyes closed, let’s focus. Let’s look around our communities, neighborhoods, and families in an effort to understand what we see. Then, let’s do something about it! Let’s make the world less “a lonely branch” and more a “Strawberry Field.” I believe it can happen, if only we take time to plant the seeds.

Visit the Official Website of John Lennon Expert and Author Jude Southerland Kessler:

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