News and Tribune

January 6, 2014

CUMMINS: Who will be the heroes in 2014?

Local columnist

— When you begin a new year, you should look forward, not back or sideways. To look back you have to turn your head around. It can make you dizzy. You shouldn’t say I’m looking forward to the end of this old year so I can begin a new one. If you’re growing old in years, and forgotten what newness is, then recharge your spirit for life. It’s the only renewable thing you have.  

Looking back at 2013, it seemed to be a year of trying to insure yourself. If you’re unsure of the future, buy insurance to insure that you will have one. But if your body rejects aging, insurance companies have a plan for you. I have collision, home, teeth, fire, theft, wind, flood, liability and stolen identity insurance. If I die, I have life-insurance, which goes to my beneficiaries. As long as I’ve lived, everything I’ve had went to my beneficiaries.

 I do not have nosy-neighbor insurance, or a policy to protect me from Congress and government shutdowns. If I had a job and lost it, I’d have unemployment insurance until BigGov cut it off. If I get hungry, I’ll eat food stamps until they go out of print. Insuring all aspects of your life is costly. If you can’t pay the next premium, what do you do? Lie down beside still waters.

It seems to me that 2013 was a year of the Affordable Care Act. Who can afford it? Those having money can. That leaves about 45 million Americans without health care. You know the story if you followed the news. And that’s a reason you didn’t follow the news, which drives up the cost of mental health care. It was also an I’m-Right-and-You’re-Wrong year, with the Wrongs winning.

I’m covered for life or I thought I was, but insurance agents know my age and keep emailing me. “Happy New Year and you will be happier with burial insurance. Love, Wayne.” Back in the old days, a skilled neighbor built a pine box for you. A friend dug the grave, and after the 23rd Psalm, you were on the way to heaven and peace, at no cost to you. Now your family collects your burial insurance and throws a big party to celebrate your life. My last will is: If you want to celebrate my life, throw it when I’m alive.

The year, 2013, wasn’t all that bad. There were a few heroes who stood out amongst the suicide bombers, suicide governments and growing ignorance and poverty. My 2013 heroes are Pope Francis, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. While much of the world concentrated on attaining wealth and power, or just survival, there were other aspects of living that needed attention, too — education, poverty, justice and freedom.

Pope Francis is certainly shaking things up. Throughout his work, he’s ministered as Jesus did, primarily to the poor. Maybe it was because there are so many of them and he loves them. On homosexuality, he said, “To say that those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong.” “Who am I to judge?” he asked. On women; “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.” On economics, “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness …has never been confirmed by the facts.” My kind of guy.

After spending 27 years in prison, working in blinding and choking dust in a limestone mine, Nelson Mandela, raised in the Xhosa tribe, became president of South Africa. “That’s not right,” he said many times and that belief underlay everything he did, everything he sacrificed for and everything he accomplished, in a sense the impossible. He changed South Africa into a democratic, nonracial nation, because freedom and justice are right.

How many 14-year-old girls would attend school at the risk of being shot? On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, attending school in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban. Malala, now 16, began blogging at age 12 to gain the right for girls to attend school, and spoke to the UN in July 2013.  

The 16-year-old is making a difference as did Nelson Mandela, dying at age 95, who worked to make things right. The new pope, fresh on the job, is making loud noises and a remarkable difference, too. You and I will also make a difference in other lives.

— Contact Terry Cummins at