2005: Good Riddance

So this year’s just about done, and to be completely frank, I can’t put a fork in it fast enough.

2005 has been a pretty depressing year. We’re now coming up to the third year of the war in Iraq, which continues to play out just as badly as I thought it would back in 2002. Osama bin Laden is still at large, four years after 9/11. The January tsunami claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced entire populations. Genocide and starvation raged in Darfur while the West watched “reality” TV.

Closer to home, the news was no better. Hurricane Katrina wiped away a vibrant American city, maybe forever. Our government embraced torture and degradation as tools of policy. The President claimed sweeping, intrusive powers to surveil us all, with barely a peep of opposition. Deficits continue to mount; incompetence continues to reign.

For me personally, it’s been a long year too. I worked on a variety of projects that mostly turned out less successfully than I’d hoped. I fell for an amazing woman who, for a variety of reasons too tedious to recount here, I can never be with.

And then, of course, there was this, and this.

So yeah. I can’t say I will miss 2005 all that much.

But it wasn’t all gloom and doom; and one of the things I did in 2005 gives me hope for the future. This year was the first time I served as a volunteer teacher for Alexandria’s Computer CORE. This great organization helps recent immigrants and low-income Alexandrians bootstrap their lives by giving them the basic computer skills they need to move from dead-end jobs into careers with a real future. The cost to them is only their time and a negligible administrative fee — and CORE gives them a refurbished computer loaded with office software to take home, to boot.

I spent the second half of the year teaching these skills to a great group of students from around the world. It was an honor and a privilege to do so. Each time our class met — twice a week for five months — I was amazed by the commitment and courage of each individual student. Working with them, getting to know them, would recharge my batteries even on the grayest of days.

A couple of weeks ago, my students graduated. It was truly moving to hear them recount how they had grown since joining the program — and it brought home to me what a special thing it was that I could help them make that happen.

So as I look back on 2005, over all the bad news and missed opportunities, I take some hope for 2006 and beyond from looking at my students. They remind me that within us all is a potential for something great — something that defies expectations — if only we can be brave enough to reach out and grasp it.

If there is hope, it lies in more of us finding that courage within ourselves.