2017 will be remembered as year of totality

We have a new word to play with this year: totality.

Thank the moon and the sun, which provided a rare unifying moment for Platte County. We’ll look back on the total eclipse of the sun in August as a highlight of 2017.

Memories of politics, shopping errands, hassles, bill paying and everyday life will fade away, but we’ll remember totality — or looking for it despite the clouds and rain, or being worn out by all the talk of it preceding.

Platte County was among the places in the United States along the line of totality, when the sun was totally blocked but for a few minutes. It grew dark, almost like night, in the middle of the day.

The fact that the eclipse was near mid-day made semi-darkness a bit more exciting. Rain dampened things a bit.

But it was still fun.

Fun being important, because the last time I remember the whole county feeling unified was the shock after the 9/11 terror attacks. That was not fun.

At times, 2017 has felt like totality would be handy for other things.

The world and the nation’s woes rained down on us this year in the news. It is tempting to take a total blackout about world strife, national politics, mass shootings, and to let someone else care about what’s going on in our state and county.

But such approaches are what bring unsettled and inefficient governance to a democracy, at all levels.

Voters and policy makers can be as easily swayed by what they don’t know as what they do know or think they know. Ignoring things and shutting off information doesn’t solve problems.

The people who repair our cars, work on our home central air and heating units, keep our teeth intact and prescribe our medicines don’t ignore important facts and how they affect the whole. Yet we who vote on community leaders who set policy that affects are daily lives often take a shallow swipe at information before we go to the polls.

That’s a recipe for winding up with policy makers with narrow, shallow agendas.

But if you’re reading this column, you’re a newspaper subscriber or at least curious enough to pick it up. You’re part of the proverbial choir that needs no preaching.

Perhaps all the news of 2017 has you down a bit. It does me.

Strife and conflict around the world, a nuclear war threat we thought had died is back, non-cooperative turmoil in national politics, silent but seething political divisions at the local level.

America has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 and young people today haven’t experienced peace.

There is no totality cure for angst over such matters, at least for now, but I believe community involvement can serve as virtual aspirin for the soul.

Many good things occur in our towns and neighborhoods. Getting involved with them is a way to shift focus to positives.

I recently went on a No Names visit to bring some cheer to residents of a local nursing home. You see difficult things in such places but also human warmth and people helping people.

The late Joe Swarts, a stalwart Republican, created the No Names and brought people together to serve. He brought in people of all political and social persuasions, service was the goal.

Others in recent years have given their time to keep the service going.

My contribution is minor, short visits along with other volunteers a few times a year. But I feel more connected to community and like a contributor after a visit. Contact me via The Platte County Citizen email if you’re interested in the No Names and I’ll connect you with organizers.

There are many other ways to get involved in a community.

Google the Platte County Land Trust and you’ll find a volunteer organization with sharp members helping to keep natural areas as part of the metro area’s green space. You can get involved in park issues in your community, or at the county level.

Growing park systems with nature, recreation and history components needs to be part of Platte County’s future. We’re behind the rest of the metro area in this component that attracts quality growth.

Hospitals and churches have volunteer organizations. If you have an interesting specialty to share, crafts such as woodworking for example, check with the University of Missouri Extension office to see if 4-H clubs can use your help. Seek out the local Lions or Optimist clubs that are service oriented.

We should not turn away totally from the news, but neither should we let the negatives rob us of happiness. Look around your neighborhood and you’ll find plenty to do in 2018 that makes you feel good when it’s done.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at editor@plattecountycitizen.com.