Art Callaham: Community wishes for the New Year

December 29, 2012

Events during the week leading up to Christmas so sadden my heart that I couldn’t do a “Christmas wishes” column last week. However, so many of my friends responded to my request for their personal Christmas and New Years wishes that I’ll try to get at least a taste of their thoughts into this column. I’ve divided the responses into categories — so here goes.

Under the heading of safety and education for our children Wayne Ridenour responded with, “My wish would be that our children are safe and that we continue to support them as a community as much as is humanly possible.”

Elizabeth Paul echoed that sentiment: “Like all of us right now after these horrifying shootings, I wish for peace. I wish for the end of violence and for the courage of our leaders to take action in productive meaningful ways to address it. I wish for schools to become truly safe places where kids can focus on learning.”

Related to the Newtown events Kay Hoffman wishes for “more understanding, compassion and acceptance for people with a mental illness and a healthcare system that allows them to receive the treatment that they need.” Mary Baykan wishes “for our community: that quality education is valued and available to every child and adult in our county.”

Several folks focused on local community development. Bruce Poole commented: “All local leaders commit to renewing and redeveloping downtown Hagerstown, as though the future of the entire county depends upon it (because it does).” Bruce Zimmerman says (locally) “more jobs and a stronger economy. It would help everyone.” Allen Hovermale and John Schnebly echoed the “jobs” thought with Allen focusing on jobs for returning veterans.

Jim Latimer wished that we “do what we can to make Hagerstown, Washington County and the State of Maryland more attractive to new business.” And Wayne Alter wishes for “the elimination of the Excise Tax. It would unlock hundreds of job in Washington County and create millions of dollars in new property taxes.”

Greg Murray commented: “… our citizens to take a real interest in the issues facing county government, get all the facts, and then form opinions outside of popular rhetoric and innuendo. That would truly help us move forward united and our accomplishments would skyrocket.” From Greg Snook, “continue the (good) working relationship between the city and county.”

Heather Guessford, Penny Pittman and Toni Sandridge wished for the continued support from volunteers and for not-for-profits. Heather: “rally together to ease the financial burden of our nonprofits”; Penny: “volunteers … continue to find it in their hearts to help once again this coming year”; and Toni: “everyone to have appropriate and adequate housing.”

Jim Pierne wishes for “continued support for all the excellent arts organizations in Washington County … our community is blessed with outstanding arts organizations and they deserve our support.”

Charles Sekula and Andrew Serafini took a national and worldwide view in making their wish lists. Charles wished for “on the global level, to curb all violence including all wars”; while Andrew reminds us all of “our national motto, as affirmed by Congress in the 1950s and confirmed by the Senate several years ago, In God We Trust.”

My many good friends at Grace Christian Academy (I’m teaching there part-time), headed up by Headmaster Jack Appleby, continued the Christian theme by wishing: “That hearts would be merry, burdens light, and homes ever filled with family and memories-in-the-making” fulfilling the promise that is Christmas. While Tom Newcomer wished “for peace and prosperity for our community and to reach out in love to support those around us”; truly a faith statement for all who believe in a higher power in our lives.

My good friend Tim Rowland wrote: “I would never presume to wish for the community a lesson that I have not fully learned myself. However, I have noticed that there are plenty of occasions that I wish I could go back in time and be kinder to someone; I have never wished I could go back in time and be uglier to someone.”

While Tim wished to go back in time, Don Bowman points to the future with a poignant question: “Will our grandkids in 50 years be as proud of Hagerstown and Washington County as I am?” Don’s wish, along with mine, is that they will.

From the Callaham family and my friends “here’s wishing you and your family and friends the very best in the New Year.” Like Tiny Tim; “God bless us, everyone”!

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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