There is a song sung on New Year’s Eve around the world which you may well have joined in with or at least heard and yet few people know what it means. Its title is Auld Lang Syne which sounds as if it’s in a foreign language and for all intents and purposes it is since it’s a phrase in the Scots language of the 18th century. The title means ‘old long since’, or as we might say today ‘in days gone by’, or ‘a long time ago’.
The version we sing today comes from a Rabbie Burns poem published in 1788, although some elements of it date back to the oral tradition of the late 16th century. The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne are about old friends having a drink, recalling adventures they had long ago, and reflecting upon friendships that have stood the test of time. The opening stanza lists a couple of rhetorical questions:
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
Whilst the chorus adds:
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
The poem is telling us that we should not forget old friends or acquaintances but show them kindness.
The beginning of a new year may be a good time to make resolutions but the close of a year provides an opportunity to reflect on what has passed. For most people around the world 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year with many having to be separated from loved ones for long periods because of the COVID pandemic. It has made us treasure the friendships we have even more and appreciate the small acts of kindness shown in so many different ways from key workers in the NHS to neighbours checking on one another.
As we enter 2021 let auld acquaintance not be forgot. I plan to recall, remember, and honour those who have done so much to help me and others through a difficult year: not only workers in the health service, but teachers, the refuse collectors, transport and shop workers, and many more. I plan to take time to recognise how important and precious my family is to me, especially when I can’t see them at major celebrations or key life-events. As a Christian, I believe all these family, friends, and acquaintances are gifts from God and should be brought to mind often.
Thinking about all these gifts in my life is good, but more than that I plan to tak a cup o’ kindness yet. To take time to express how much family and acquaintances mean to me, maybe by making that phone call, sending that email, writing an old-fashioned letter, or doing something practical that can be of help; this seems to me to be the Christian approach.
Auld Lang Syne sounded different to me at the end of 2020 and I doubt it will ever sound the same again.
Have a good week remembering friends with kindness
 See James 1:17 in the New International Version (UK) of the Bible.
 James 2:14-17 in the New International Version (UK) of the Bible.