Peace on earth. Joy to the world. Have a happy new year.

Those are the sentiments that spill from the holiday cards that fill my mailbox (thanks to all who send them. I never have, so I’m amazed I’m still on anyone’s list).

They’re cliches. But, as I point out at the drop of a hat, there’s a kernel of truth in every cliche. And Lord knows, we need peace, joy and happiness more than ever.

You can’t buy those things on Main Street or the mall. You can’t even find them on Amazon, where you can get everything these days (so you never have to venture downtown or anywhere else). You can’t wrap them and put them under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush.

But, the cliche goes, the best things in life are free. And you won’t have to spend a pretty penny for the peace, joy and happiness we need so badly we can taste it.

You will have to work like a dog at it, though.

Peace in Westport starts with us. It means looking out for each other, rather than ourselves. We’ve got to have each other’s backs. Give each other the shirt off of ours, rather than figure out ways to constantly keep up with the Joneses.

Many of us already do that. The turnout for Tina Wessel’s funeral — and the number of people who helped the homeless woman for years before she died — is testament to Westport’s giving nature.

So is the number of Westporters who serve meals at the Gillespie Center, contribute to organizations like Staples Tuition Grants, and volunteer with EMS. Those are just three examples, out of God knows how many. When it comes to giving back, many of us leave no stone unturned.

But we also drive like we’re going to a fire. We race around town, weave in and out of traffic, and put everyone in peril by texting like there’s no tomorrow.

We treat the folks who work in our stores like dogs. We bark at them if they’re not quick enough. We avoid eye contact, barely giving them the time of day. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but we talk on cellphones while they ring us up, sending the clear signal that our life is a bowl of cherries, and theirs is a bunch of sour grapes.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That means something as simple as holding the door for someone, or waving them into traffic as they exit a parking lot. On the other side, it means NOT taking that handicapped spot, or taking up two spaces because you are as dumb as a rock, and can’t be bothered to park correctly.

They say good fences make good neighbors, but around here we’ve taken that to new heights. We pile wood on top of faux stone walls, walling ourselves off from the rest of the neighborhood while destroying the streetscape for everyone passing by. Borrowing a cup of sugar is a suburban cliche — and one with a snowball’s chance in hell of happening in Westport. And that timeworn ritual: the block party? I haven’t seen one since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Having a happy new year means stopping to smell the roses. They won’t bloom for a few months, but until then, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle? During the cold winter you can make hay while the sun shines. Go sledding at Winslow Park or Birchwood Country Club. Take a bracing walk at Compo Beach. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway — yeah, the one with the big fence. Try it; you’ll like it.

Look around. There are things to do everywhere, and the best things in life are free (or at least, inexpensive. They don’t cost an arm and a leg). First Night is right around the corner. The library’s Westport Reads program will open your mind, expand your horizons, and make you feel smart as a whip. Westport Country Playhouse and the Arts Center offer year-round programming, for kids of all ages. Check out their websites today. He who hesitates is lost.

Many of these ideas are not rocket science. They’re as simple as ABC. We don’t often follow them, or even think about them, because life is hard. There never seem to be enough hours in a day.

But little things mean a lot. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

So go for it. Give it your best shot. With a little bit of effort, and a lot of luck, you too can have peace on earth. Joy to the world. And a happy new year.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at His personal blog is