What are you doing New Year's Eve? It's an invitation. A famous song. And this past week, for me, it was actually an issue.
For the first time in my life, I was not in the U.S. on Dec..31. I was away from family and friends. I had gone by myself to Haiti to be with the children of an orphanage our charity operates, because illness and vacation had depleted the staff.
Don't get me wrong. It's not a hardship assignment. The kids are delightful, a joy to be with. But New Year's Eve in America sort of lays itself out. You're either going to a restaurant (get there early), going to a club (stay there late), going to a party (get a designated driver), or staying home and saying, "I'll watch the ball drop and go to bed."
None of those was an option in Haiti. For the kids at the orphanage -- particularly the nearly two dozen more recent arrivals between ages 3 and 8 -- there was no tradition. I found this out during breakfast, when I yelled out, "Good morning! Who knows what today is?"
"Monday!" they yelled back.
"OK. Yes. Monday. But what else?"
"New Year's Eve!" I gushed. "The last day of the year! And who knows what tomorrow is?"
"Tuesday!" they yelled.
So this was gonna be a challenge.
Now, planning New Year's Eve for the 10-and-under crowd requires originality. First, I had to tell what the holiday meant. I explained the calendar. I explained that "today will be 2012 but tomorrow will be 2013."
Not sure that one got through.
Then I spoke about New York City, Times Square, the midnight tradition of watching the ball drop down a pole. "And do you know what happens when the ball reaches the bottom?" I asked.
"It explodes!" one boy yelled.
"No. People hug and sing."
"And then it explodes?"
"No. It never explodes."
"Oh." He seemed disappointed.
Still, it gave me an idea. I asked one of the older kids if there was someplace we could buy sparkler fireworks.