This year is coming to an end; it’s been a hard year, personally and politically. I lost my mother, and the current political climate, the war in Iraq, have left me dispirited. My confidence, that with persistence and hard work, things will work out, is slowly ebbing.

Then something happened that restored my confidence. At this year’s National Caring Awards, one of the youth winners was a 13-year-old seventh grader named Jhordan Ryan. Her history of volunteerism and community service began at age three when Jhordan started making fruit baskets and distributing them at her great-grandmothers retirement community. Later, she collected food for the Salvation Army and blankets for the Humane Society. Then she began distributing books to hospitals, nursing homes, preschools, and Indian reservations.

At age 10, she was the youngest person in her town (New Castle, Indiana) to have the mayor proclaim a day in their honor. She founded Y.E.S. (Youth Embracing Seniors), a program where kids visit, send letters, and make relationships with seniors living in assisted-care facilities. Her latest project is Adopt-a-Soldier, which pairs soldiers fighting abroad with students in her hometown. She wants to support the troops’ morale, but also to give students a better sense of what it really means to be a soldier in wartime.

In my losses, with a nation at war that recalls my old Vietnam reminiscences, I listen to a 13-year-old who still believes there will come a time when we will make war no more.

God bless the children, God bless the parents, and God bless the warriors, if not the war. In this season of new birth, may this be the year we cross the Jhordan to the Promised Land.

Happy New Year, and to all my relations, mi takuye oyacin.