Everything’s a social media tagline these days but this one resonates in the waning weeks of 2019: nothing will look the same a year from now.

It has been a year at the News & Independent. Significantly gratifying and fulfilling. Exhausting, exhilarating, sad and 1,000 other emojis.

As I ponder what’s changed since December 2018, I’m reminded of the constants, all the things about the newspaper and our small towns that still are.

We still have an editorial staff that cares deeply about community journalism. We tell the stories of local people and places that are rapidly evolving… and not.

Change is constant, we were reminded often in 2019. We’ll always need another fire truck, a more modern municipal building and additional classrooms. We’ll always have to figure out how to pay for all that and new people will be elected to push through the process. But we can still take heart in the presence of our surrounding wood lots, creeks and trails that remained to be enjoyed in 2019, as always.

Businesses came and went this year. But century-old engraving on the front of historic Main Street buildings remained.

We continue to lose farm families, but for now there are still fields, cows, and hens here and local kids actively participating in 4-H and FFA.

Community holiday traditions evolve but there is still Santa. Sometimes jovially holding court at a breakfast with pancakes, sometimes passing out candy canes at the bank, sometimes at the elbow of Mrs. Claus. But here, a constant, every December including in 2019.

If urban December is bustling city sidewalks, rural December is silent snowfalls. You can still stand on a windswept local hillside in December and hear nothing but the wind. For continued opportunities to silence my mind in that depth of quiet respite, I’m thankful.

Fairs, festivals and high school musicals will go on, I’m certain, in 2020 and beyond, although the people leading and participating in those activities will change.

I expect that there will always be local summer baseball here, and that kids will always dip their toes in Lake Ripley.

There will always be local friends to share a glass of wine with, kids eager to sled down the neighborhood hill, and the familiar interstate exit after a long road trip.

I’ll never tire of local church lights that illuminate the countryside on a snowy night and Christmas hymns whose lyrics never change.

Accepting what must evolve and embracing the constant that doesn’t have to change is, I think, the best approach to life and our small towns, in 2020 and beyond.

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