Auld Lang Syne


Whew! Christmas has passed and we are embarking on the last holiday of the year” New Year’s Eve. Take a moment to consider the dichotomy of the two holidays—so close together yet so far apart. Christmas, or whatever holiday you choose to observe, is a celebration of new life, religious roots, gifts, decoration, family and friends. There is a certain formality about the holiday that invites fellowship, renewal of friendships and relationships leading to an overall feeling of kindness. It is as though the troubles are frozen in time for a brief period. The reality is nothing goes away, but it’s nice to have a break.

I did not post a blog over Christmas because it took me longer to feel the spirit this year. I couldn’t help thinking about all that has gone on in the past year impacting so many. The economic meltdown, rising healthcare costs, gas prices, unemployment, terrorism, the upswing in crime, and the bank and real estate disaster. It was very difficult to be merry. Friends are suffering from financial losses, family members are struggling to keep up with health costs, and Realtors who work with me are facing the hard realities of the current market.

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These are the people I think about daily and sometimes hourly. My Christmas wish is for all of them to have a better 2011. They are all good, honest, hard-working people who just want to provide for their families. They don’t look for handouts of feel a sense of entitlement. They only want an opportunity to work and be productive so they can provide a good life for their loved ones. I know that Santa hears their wishes and will provide them with the spirit to forge ahead to the New Year.

To get back the spirit of Christmas, I decided to focus on family and friends. It wasn’t going to be about what to give or what I would receive, but about how we could be together. My gift to my family this year was to be together and experience the least amount of stress and the most laughter. With that in mind, Betsy and I saw most of our friends at holiday parties. We laughed more than usual, ate as much as usual, and listened to holiday music and watched holiday movies.

Eleven people crowded around the dinner table feasting on a meal fit for a king. The gift to each other was just—each other. There was not an ill word spoken, only many stories told of Christmases past. The spirit was there so, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

And now we move forward to the New Year. I’ve often wondered what that song Auld Lang Syne” meant and why we sing it at the holiday. You know it. It was sung at the end of “it’s a Wonderful Life” by George Bailey from Bedford Falls, New York (really Seneca Falls, New York). It is often played on bagpipes at funerals, graduations and weddings. So what is it about?

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish folk song written by Robert Burns in 1788. Loosely translated, the title means “long, long ago” or “days gone by” or “old times.” The first stanza always puzzled me because I interpreted it to mean forget your old times when, in reality, it calls to remember and celebrate long-term relationships. The song symbolizes endings and new beginnings.

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With this in mind, I think of my longstanding friends and how much they mean to me and do for others. They are my long-term friends because we share the same values. They care for others and do what they can to help them, even if they are strangers. In the spirit of the season and Auld Lang Syne, I would like to touch on one of my dearest friends who did touch a stranger in a kind way. This is not an isolated instance for him, but a way of life.

This friend is a lawyer (not by the stereotypical definition, but a good person who practices law) who has been helping people with their real estate needs for about a quarter of a century. He has taught me tolerance, patience and negotiating from the heart, not always the head. I credit him for much of my success in negotiating transactions and helping people achieve their goals or buying or selling their home, as well as leading people. He has influenced many of my colleagues while humbly staying in the background. This is but one example of how he has affected the outcome of an otherwise dire situation.

To set this up, the background is typical of the times. A bank-owned home has been purchased by a qualified buyer whose desire is to be in the home by Christmas. This single mom has two small children and has been waiting patiently for an approval from the bank, which has been delayed over and over for reasons beyond belief. The final straw was that a signed power-of-attorney was the only thing standing in the way of this woman settling on her home. The bank informed the law firm that they would be able to settle by the end of the year. This was his response.

“Before the end of the year is not good enough. My client has no place to live. She has two small children and needs to get into the house before Christmas. Imagine what it’s like for a small child hoping that Santa will be able to find her on Christmas Eve. Remember your own childhood and waking up to find Christmas joy! I appeal to all involved to help this family celebrate Christmas in their own home.

“It may be inconvenient to rush the paperwork through. But there is no reason it should take 4 days to get a POA signed. Have them get it signed today and sent over night to us along with the deed so we can settle Wednesday or Thursday. Show the Christmas spirit and help your fellow man. You will feel good about yourself if you do. Is there no room in the Inn?

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“Thank you for helping make it work.”

He sent this to me, as threats would not work and no one seemed to care. He told me that he had to find a way to make them care. This seemed to work as they settled at 1 p.m. the next day. he  in by Christmas.

This is an example of the holiday spirit and I thank my friend Jonathan Taylor from the law firm of Ward and Taylor for sharing it with me. I am sure he would not want his name mentioned as this is nothing special. It is special to me. It shows that if you care, you can make a difference.

Auld Lang Syne celebrates the end and looks ahead. Think of how you made a difference in 2010 and look forward to making a difference in 2011. Care to help others, get involved and make it a better year for all.

Helping people is always The Right Direction.


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