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January 1st, 2010
08:44 AM ET

Dear President Obama #347: Re-resolution time!

Reporter's Note: Many people are a little draggy today after staying up half the night to welcome the New Year. Not sure what the president did, but hopefully he’s still game for today’s letter to the White House.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

My family eats ham and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. It’s an old southern tradition, and I don’t really know all the meanings behind it. I suppose the ham symbolizes hope for wealth. A lot of city dwellers are confused by the notion of a pig representing riches, but the explanation is simple. Most animals on old-fashioned family farms served more than one purpose before they were slaughtered; chickens produced eggs, cows produced milk, sheep produced wool…you get the picture. But pigs just eat and eat, until they are eaten. Therefore, a farmer who could afford pigs was considered wealthy back in the day, and when we eat ham on special occasions we are unwittingly saluting Ol’ McDonald, Ee-i-ee-i-oh.

The black-eyed peas are supposed to bring good luck. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have read that it is because they are a humble food. If you start the year recognizing the simplicity of your needs, and your own unworthiness of the great bounty of life, God may reward you with more. Or something like that. It’s one of those “I’m so humble, I should get a prize!” sort of things.

My wife, who grew up in the north, had never heard of all this before we met, but she has become an eager participant. She read once that black-eyed peas are supposed to look into the future for you and help chart a course for better days. Maybe. Although I must say it kind of creeps me out to imagine a bunch of eyeballs on my plate staring into the months ahead to see what might come my way. All I know for certain is that I grew up having ham and black-eyed peas on New Year’s, I still do, and I presume my daughters will continue to observe the custom as adults because they too have now grown up with it.

Not sure what I’ll do about a New Year’s resolution. I suppose I’ll try to lose weight like pretty much everyone else. And I’ve given thought to the notion of getting up a half hour earlier than usual every day to read and/or write more. But who knows?

Frankly, I think the best resolution (and the one I ultimately land on every year) is to try to live each day as if it is the one that matters, and that means a whole host of simple things: Care for your friends, and be kind to strangers. Play and laugh. Love and cry. Enjoy good music, and read good poetry. Dance. Take time to enjoy little things, even as you strive for great things. Never despair. Tend to your work. Recognize your own failings, and admire the successes of others. Trust in God, and give God reason to trust in you.

That’s about it. That’s pretty much my annual resolution, and candidly, my philosophy of life: Live every day as if it is the start of a new year, because it really is. Sometimes that leads to wonderful times, and sometimes the days are bad. Will it work this year? Well, I guess only the black-eyed peas know.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. I’ll write a few more stories here in the next couple of days, and then get back to more serious subjects on Monday.

Regards,

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Isabel Siaba (Brazil)

    I wish that in 2010 we find the peace so desired and that do people and nations learn to respect differences!!

    `•.¸¸✴•*¨*☆ Happy 2010 •*´☾`•.¸¸✴•*¨*☆ •*¨*

    January 1, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  2. Chris

    My 2010 resolution is to read your letter each day; it always brings a smile.
    Happy New Year!!

    January 1, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  3. Tim Gibson

    Tom, I too grew up on the ham and black eyed peas for New Years and a trip back home to Florida without black eyed peas is a sad day.

    Loved you best of and worst of last night. All the best in the New Year for you and your family and may God bless you all.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:57 am |

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