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New year brings challenges same and newFree Access



Ken Ripley

I’ve enjoyed movies, and when I was a young child who saw something scary, I would peek at the screen through my fingers, not wanting to miss anything but too fearful to face it openly.

In my increasingly old age, I want to peek through my fingers at the coming of a new year, especially when I know there will be trouble in the days ahead. Doesn’t everybody feel that way sometimes?



The typical new year’s column usually offers one of three options: reflections on the past year, predictions for the new year and resolutions for some kind of positive change.

Other than noting that the federal government got much more done for people than anyone thought possible, I don’t want to reflect much on the past year. I’m glad it’s over. Much of what I read online or saw on social media or television was ugly and mean-spirited, on all sides. News reports repeatedly described increasingly rude and even violent behavior while traveling or shopping. I wish all of this would have changed on Jan. 1, but we know it hasn’t.

New Year’s Eve is always a wild celebration, at least among the young, who cheer as acorns or globes descend at midnight. It signals a “fresh start” and there’s a lot of hugging, cheering and kissing. For me, I noticed that I and all my senior friends were mostly asleep before the big moment.

That’s because, aside from simple lack of energy, we seniors have long since learned that the idea of a “fresh start” is aspirational and not reality. All of us, no matter our politics or status in life, carry our mental and physical baggage from the past year into the next. The “fresh start” is tainted by the consequences and repercussions of our past actions. We are who we are and we have to live with what we have done or do, no matter what the calendar promises.

So I won’t bother with reflections on 2022. And predictions are tricky, too. At a certain point, just living through another year is accomplishment enough. But there are a few things I can reasonably predict.

I know, because they say so, that the hard-right conservatives and crazies who took over the U.S. House this week will make national politics chaotic, unproductive and embarrassing in the eyes of the world. Congressional antics, possible partisan court decisions and state government conflicts really make me want to peek through my fingers.

And locally, I am predicting some peeking moments too. Despite a massive increase in utility bills and a draconian and downright mean-spirited payment policy announced last month, it seems we’re still having water issues with more promises than solutions. I am getting tired of boil-water alerts, especially ones that last a week or more.

I am also concerned about the future of the Spring Hope Public Library, which is getting ready to be evicted from the downtown depot where it has quietly and with no controversy served more people of all ages, six days a week, each year for 42 years, more time than any other civic organization.

(Disclosure: I am chairman of the library’s Board of Trustees, which has spent all these decades gradually expanding library services within the depot to become the third-largest library in the county. We are a nonprofit private corporation but deliberately operate in partnership with local and county government as a public service for Spring Hope.)

Town officials want to transform the depot into an “event venue” aimed at evenings and weekends, now made possible by a $800,000 state grant. The depot, which is town property, needs serious structural restoration, which will be a good thing. The proposed new use is debatable. But while I’m told “we support the library,” the town has not identified a new location as good or better than its current site, figured out how to move the library to any new site or apparently set aside any funds for such a forced move.

If these issues aren’t resolved during the coming year, Spring Hope’s public library will be diminished at best or eliminated at worst. Years of growth wasted. So, yes, here too I am peeking through my fingers on behalf of all local library users.

So that leaves resolutions, which we all know are easier to make than to keep. But my wife Vickie suggested a resolution for which I agree everyone needs to try. Let’s resolve during 2023 to be kinder and nicer to each other.

Social media has coarsened and corrupted civic discourse on all levels, nationally, statewide and locally. Let’s do our best to tone down the pettiness and the nastiness, especially the online meanness aimed at each other.

Let’s cut each other and our leaders some slack, be constructive in our criticism and go out of our way to be supportive of positive local initiatives: the Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival, the garden club and Dan Finch’s pottery exhibition. Most of Spring Hope’s civic clubs have withered away, but our citizens still care about our community and its future.

I know from long experience that Spring Hope, day to day, is a kind and caring town full of great people. My plea is that we resolve this year to build on our strengths to make our town even more kind and caring. A pat on the back, a less sharp tongue or even a smile now and then won’t hurt or cost a thing.

I wish I could make that resolution a prediction, but it’s not up to me, as much as I need to be nicer too. It’s up to all of us to put other people first every day until next Dec. 31 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Ken Ripley, a Spring Hope resident, is The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.