For over a decade I have written a New Year’s article, often reflecting on past resolutions, how well I fared or failed in achieving those goals and what I planned to do in the coming year. This year is a bit different as those living near me can well attest.
It would be easy to just say good riddance to 2018. Hurricane Michael will forever be a marker in Southwest Georgia and North Florida for 2018. As if the destruction of the storm was not enough, it has been followed by nearly 20 inches of rain in the past 10 weeks. It is hard not to let that color our entire view of the past year resulting in a collecting sigh that it is finally over.
As in most things in life, there are silver linings everywhere in the dark clouds. 2018 brought me a new grandson, continued health for my extended family and the opportunity to check off several items on my travel bucket list.
We visited with old friends and made new friends, both of which have made the past couple of months more tolerable.
I learned patience, though not always willingly. I watched an outpouring of support from neighbors who helped neighbors. Even more amazing, I watched strangers helping strangers, wanting no acknowledgement, just there for their fellow man in a time of need.
Finally, at the very end of the year, my brother and I sold the major part of our company. Hardee’s was not just a fast food chain to me, it was a child I loved and nurtured. For 35 years it was a daily part of my life. It is time to let it go and in doing so I face 2019 with more of a blank slate than I have ever had in my adult life.
So in keeping with my past New Year’s Day articles, I will make the following resolutions though they are somewhat different from previous year pledges.
I will continue to work as Mayor to help rebuild our city. We have a great Council, City Manager and staff, but we also have a lot of work to do. We will reach a point sometime in 2019 where we can say the cleanup and repairs are done. Then we will focus on a new and better future for our community.
I will rebuild our home at Compass Lake. That lake has been part of our family’s collective sense of place for seven generations. Its destruction tugged at my heart more than anything else in the aftermath of the storm. At some point in 2019, we will sit on a new dock, watch our grandkids jump into the cold spring water and marvel once again at what a special place we enjoy.
I will make our lawn beautiful again. There will not be 40 large trees giving shade anymore, but it will be beautiful. This Spring the blooming tulips will hopefully be our first reminder of the powerful rejuvenating power of nature.
I will find that personal place for me in semi-retirement that allows me to serve and yet enjoy life in a different way. I will make new friends, reconnect with old friends, spend more time in Auburn, and check even more places off our bucket list.
As much as we would like God to take us around our troubles, sometimes He decides to take us straight through them. We travel through the darkness of the storm and may feel that we have been forsaken. Take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who 700 years before the birth of Jesus said that the child would be called Immanuel, which means “God is with us”.
Later in the New Testament, Matthew 1:23 states “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
As we enter a new and challenging 2019, remember that we are not alone. We have our neighbors, our friends, our family and our own inner resolve. And when all else fails, remember that birth in a manger some 2000 years ago of a baby who was called Immanuel sending us a timeless and endless reminder that God is always with us.
Happy New Year to you and yours as we enter 2019. May you find comfort and peace in knowing we are never alone.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]