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Reflect & Resolve

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With the tumultuous 2008 coming to a relatively quiet (as I write this, anyway) close, it's time to think about the year ahead.

Looking back, this was a year that we almost wish we could do over. It began with a series of brutal murders, and was marked (or is that marred?) by several animal cruelty cases and a series of layoffs and closings due to a floundering economy.

Now, here are some thoughts to consider in 2009:

• Let's resolve to treat each other with more compassion. A Hotline caller said that authorities "put animals ahead of children" this year by policing puppy mills more aggressively than cases involving minors, but it's our responsibility to protect the helpless. Let's resolve to defend all those who need it — children, the elderly, the unemployed, the handicapped and, yes, even animals.

• We've learned the hard lesson that manufacturing — the engine that drove the Twin Counties for decades — is losing steam. Our local leaders should resolve to continue recruiting new and diverse employers, like AmeriPumps in Carroll and the state prison in Grayson. Heed the state's revelation that the Crooked Road music trail has brought $23 million into our region, and focus on more ways to draw outsiders here to experience the culture we hold dear.

• Gas prices in 2008 taught us that we need to conserve energy and find new ways of doing things. Let's resolve to try sensible "green" initiatives that can both save us money and protect the planet.

• As a compassionate community, let's resolve to look out for each other. There are more families in need than ever, and many fall through the cracks and don't qualify for as much government help as you might assume. Just because the holidays are over, don't stop caring and don't stop giving.