As we bring 2019 to a close, I cannot help but think of one of our society’s favorite pieces of literature, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Certainly, we all know the story.
One cold Christmas Eve, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is particularly unkind to the people who work for him, refuses to give to charity, and then is rude to his only remaining family when invited to spend Christmas together. When Scrooge gets home, he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley – and then by three spirits! They are the Spirit of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. The spirits’ journey through time teaches Scrooge the error of his ways. When he wakes up on Christmas Day, he changes his ways and becomes the embodiment of the Christmas Spirit year-round.
Dickens did not bestow us this darkly optimistic tale to simply entertain, but to remind us all that we must hold our fellow man in better regard if we are to seek reclamation of our souls. One cannot be blamed for hoping three spirits make some stops this Christmas Eve in the chambers of many of our politicians. Certainly we have some in Illinois who need the reminder. As both sides decry rancorous rhetoric while engaging in it themselves at all our levels of government, I am also reminded that many of those in public service are doing a difficult, often thankless job simply because they believe in helping their neighbors.
I recently met with the Legislative Committee of the Jo Daviess County Board. This is a bipartisan group of elected officials serving their neighbors throughout Jo Daviess County. Despite being Democrats and Republicans, they share common goals and have agreed to work together on those goals, as one. Whether the issue is discussion of passenger rail, economic development, tourism growth, or systemic issues effecting all units of local government, I was impressed by this group’s unity around goals they share.
I see that every day, in nearly every level of government. While there are plenty of political swamps that deservedly need draining, both near and far, there are also plenty of people working hard in public service with the goal of improving the lives of their neighbors. This is sometimes rewarded with catching an earful from an angry voter at a gas station or a restaurant, but nonetheless, people of character do put themselves forward to serve their neighbors through this work.
We’ll get back to the same arguments and policy differences in 2020 that we had in 2019, but for now as 2019 ends, I want to thank all those who serve their communities. Those in elected office, those who serve their neighbors in our armed forces, as first responders, or teachers, or nurses or just those who go the extra mile and show extra care in their chosen profession- I thank you and wish for your personal fulfillment and success in 2020.