Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.
Well, this really isn’t a hymn at all. But it is New Year’s Eve and there is a bit of a tradition of singing this old Scottish song on this night. Its words, a poem attributed to Robert Burns from around 1788, are about remembering old friends and shared adventures. It seemed like a good idea to take a moment to do that at the end of this year.
There is much to be found when thinking about the conclusion of a year. Obviously, the day is arbitrary and doesn’t really mean anything, but it has traditionally been an opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months. There are often many wonderful adventures and experiences to recall, but there are also those that leave us heartbroken, disappointed and baffled. Sometimes we come up with resolutions that, while not necessarily very effective, can be an interesting account of where we wish to travel in the coming year. What we’ve done, where we wish to go. A kind of annual measurement.
Thinking about our tendency to focus on what we’ve done and where we wish to go, I am aware that the poet’s words are really about something else. As I read these words, what comes through is the idea that our adventures and travels and challenges and weariness are shared – and those with whom we share our lives, should not be forgotten. It is the friends that are spoken of repeatedly.
Where would we be without friends? Be they old or new or members of our families. Those that share our adventures through the good and bad, and over time, are to be celebrated, remembered and toasted. They carry us, they let us carry them. They wipe away our tears, they listen patiently to our frustrations. They cheer us on, and they laugh at our stories – time and time and again! They add colour to whatever we encounter. They make our lives bright.
This is what I will remember about this year. The friends who held me in their care. The friends who listened and understood. The friends who encouraged me and came along for whatever ride I suggested. The friends who laughed with abandon. The friends who simply remained constant.
It is a cup of kindness to have these friends. It is a worthy thing to toast.
Happy New Year.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.