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We’ve made it to the end of another year! Like many of you, I am both looking back at 2023 and wondering about 2024. The last year has held both the expected and unexpected, the welcome and the unwelcome, and both joys and sorrows. Some have been very personal while others have encompassed the life of our country and our world.
At the same time, I stand on the threshold of this brand-new year with all the unknowns that it holds. As I ponder stepping over that threshold, a recent conversation that I had with a person in public service in our local community stays with me. He was concerned about a lack of funding for what he saw as a critical need for more personnel and updated equipment. The answer was always, 'You are right, but we can’t afford it.'
I presume the response was based on dollars and cents — a budget with other priorities that were deemed more important. But I began to wonder about what else in our lives, perhaps not based on money, can we ‘not afford ’to be without and will this New Year give us the opportunity to do something different?
Can we afford to be without:
An earth that is healthy — where plants and animals can thrive according to their unique role in the interconnectedness of all beings — where we, the humans make the choices necessary for a sustainable environment for all.
A community where diversity is honored and the riches of many cultures is fostered.
A place where people no longer fear the possibility of gun violence and feel safe leaving their homes to go to school, church, synagogue or mosque, or to the mall.
A place where we know that those we may judge as other because of the color of their skin, their sexual and gender identity, their way of worship, their political stance are, at their core, our sisters and brothers whose dignity demands our respect.
An understanding of our history as a nation with its promise and its potential is also deeply flawed by a racism still active in our midst.
Some might say, 'Yes, you are right, but I/we can’t afford it because I can’t afford to change – to risk losing my comfortable way of living — of thinking — of acting of judging.' Really? Is that where it just ends?
An essay I found on the website, Grateful Living, by Joe Primo, gave me a new perspective. Reflecting on a quote from Br. David Steindt-Rast, 'Hope is a passion for the possible,' he writes:
There are days, even whole seasons, when the realm of what is possible but not yet present appears increasingly less accessible, seldom part of political discourse, and far from our hearts. Many of us are content to limit what we imagine possible, living in a dirge of black and white rather than in a spectrum of colors. Hues, tints, saturation, and variances are forgotten and binary thinking has taken us to the opposite side of gradation. This is the terrain where people get lost, not in a rugged landscape but in catastrophic thinking and apathy.
There is a deep courage within those who seek the possible. These seekers teach us to be realistically present to our imagination and to take risks. This is because possibility is actionable — it is a perpetual invitation into the imaginable where creativity, humility, and perception are birthed — where metaphor comes alive and breathes truth into what was, is and will be. Seeking the possible is not the pursuit of an unlikely miracle, even though the moment the possible becomes tangible may be quite a miraculous arrival. The possible is always among us – in its constancy, it simply waits in silence to be discovered.
So as I take my first steps over the threshold of 2024, I do so with the desire to seek the possible in the expected and unexpected, the welcome and the unwelcome, and the joys and sorrows that will be my journey, will be our journey in this new year. Perhaps our willingness to risk whatever it is that needs to happen to turn the possible into reality will find us able to say to one another, 'You’re right … and yes, we can afford it.'
Happy New Year.
— Sr. Paula Cooney, IHMis a member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good. She resides in Monroe and can be reached at

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