Last week, we welcomed the first day of spring, and with it the seasonal promise that winter's dreary days soon will be a fading memory, replaced by the fresh new colors of the season of rebirth.
Immediately on the heels of the spring equinox comes the celebration of Easter by those of the Christian religion, and a growing recognition of the holiday on a secular basis by many who may ignore its religious foundations.
It is unusual that Easter falls so closely after the first day of spring; in fact it is a phenomenon that hasn't happened for nearly 100 years.
Perhaps it is fortuitous that these two harbingers of renewal and rebirth are so closely aligned this year. As a nation, we need the colors of spring, the faith in tomorrow that is the focal point of Easter. Today, as in recent years, the season of hope also finds us mired in times of trouble even as we try to put our problems aside for prayer and reflection.
Our nation remains at war in the Middle East for a fifth straight year, and though violence has eased in Iraq, the end is not yet in sight. Afghanistan remains a troubled and shaky democracy, while upheaval in Pakistan, saber-rattling from Iran and continued unrest between Israel and the Palestinians make lasting peace in the Holy Lands and environs a far-off objective.
Back home, the U.S. economy is in a downturn that some are calling a recession. Jobless rates are up, along with prices for fuel, food and other staples. The mortgage crisis and collapse of the housing market has cost many their homes. Many are earning less, saddled with heavy debt and unsure of our long-term financial stability.
Already this year, North Georgians have mourned the loss of three bright, energetic young women to senseless, violent deaths, a troubling reminder of the evil we face in our everyday lives. Along with man's inhumanity we have endured nature's fury in the form of a yearlong drought, punctuated by severe storms that took the lives of at least two Georgians last weekend and injured dozens more in downtown Atlanta.
When the bad news mounts and our societal and personal problems overcome us, it is ever harder to keep the faith and remain optimistic. And yet the coming of spring and the annual celebration of the resurrection that is Easter provide us with an impetus to do just that - to believe that this, too, shall pass and that better days are ahead.
Now is a time for to renew our belief systems, to commit ourselves anew to our families, our churches, our community and the world around us, and to do what we can to make it better.
Whether yours is faith based on the religious power of Easter, or simply a heartfelt assurance that the dawning of a new spring brings with it hope for better days ahead, now is the time for renewal, rebirth and new beginnings.
We have as a nation conquered problems far larger than those whose dark shadows hover over the sprit of our national consciousness, and will do so again.