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A New Kind of New Year's Resolution

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Dinner with family. Exchanging presents. Lighting candles. Caroling. Vacation. Parties. Fireworks!

How will you celebrate the holidays this year? We often forget that we have a choice about how we will observe the national, cultural and religious holidays that make up this "most wonderful time of the year." But what if this year we did something a little different? Something that could touch and bless the lives of others, our neighbors, maybe even strangers ...

Here's a challenge to all Americans to reconsider the way we celebrate the New Year. We hope that you'll still go out and have fun. Party! Watch football. Rock the ball-drop in Times Square at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Go to a Watchnight service. Keep doing whatever you do each December 31st. But when January 1st rolls around and you start thinking of all the new habits, rules, and goals you'd like to set for yourself, please consider thinking of others when you make your resolutions and push your annual "reset" button.

This year, Resolution 12, a campaign for which we are both volunteering, is challenging people to make resolutions for 2012 that will make a difference in the lives of those around them. There's no gimmick. No cost. No donation ask. No official affiliation with particular charities. It's simply a portal for people around the world to share their positive resolutions for the new year. You might be surprised to see what ideas others are sharing about their plans for 2012 -- and get inspired to make your own resolution.

Fr. James Martin, popular author and "Colbert Report Chaplain" has resolved to give more to the poor, to pray more for the poor and to live more simply. The Reverend Michael Sullivan of Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church in Atlanta wants to "expand the boundaries" of his heart and "embrace the world." Popular blogger and faith leader Joshua Case hopes to "live fully into my experience of others -- to connect them to the resources they need." University of Pennsylvania's President Amy Gutmann's resolution is to cultivate more opportunities for her institution to "improve lives locally, nationally and globally through teaching, research, and civic engagement." Eboo Patel, President of Interfaith Youth Core and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, resolves to look at work in a new way, as a craft to "take pleasure and pride in." (To see more resolutions by prominent community leaders, click here.)

How does one go about choosing a resolution? 17th Century nun, St. Teresa of Avila's words, "Do whatever most kindles love in you" seems to be a good place to start. For some, the arts are what most kindle love in them. Last year, spoken word artist Justin Reilly resolved to write poetry about various causes to help raise awareness and compassion. This year, his resolution is to travel to Haiti with ten other artists for a "service by art trip" which will combine performances and exhibitions with rebuilding efforts. Some folks are pledging to join Big Brothers Big Sisters, to volunteer at a homeless youth shelter, donate blood to the American Red Cross, and to give to various charitable organizations. Others have made resolutions to smile more, to help to keep their street clean, or to conserve water by taking shorter showers. Some are taking on larger resolutions, like committing to be a part of efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.

We all want to move up in our careers, get out of debt, keep our homes, put our kids through college, lose weight, spend less money on things that aren't essentials. We get it. Things are tough economically at home and around the world. But if we start thinking outside the box -- beyond our cul-de-sacs, cities, states and countries -- we'd recognize that the world is actually a very small place, and actions as tiny as one Tweet are making an impact. (By the way, if you are feeling particularly down-and-out this year, then see how you rank among the world's poor at the Global Rich List.)

Your resolution can be anything -- big or small. The hope is, however, that it won't just be about you. Like every holiday, you have a choice as to how you will celebrate it. Why not bring in the new year by not only having fun, but also making a difference in the lives of others.

Click here to make your New Year's Resolution for 2012.