The most wonderful time of the year is almost over (thank goodness). The tree looks sad and lonely with most of the presents gone from underneath. Scraps of wrapping paper are still lurking around in the strangest of places. (How oh how did that get in between the screen and the window pane?)

Pants around Mobile are too tight from too much of … well, everything. And families have miraculously survived another holiday of splitting up time among all the relatives (“But y’all stayed with them last year!”) and talking politics (“I just can’t even do this with you again, Uncle Fred!”). But don’t worry, hurt feelings will subside by the time the decorations are all put up in their Rubbermaid tubs in the attic. And by Easter, everyone can drive each other crazy again over ham and potato salad.

Oh, how the magic and messiness in our lives is always magnified during the holidays! They are wonderful but stressful. Full of immense joy as we see the light in the eyes of our children, but also deep sorrow as we ache for those who can no longer see it with us.

I am always happy to see it come, but happier it to see it go.

Maybe because the New Year offers us that chance for a new start on whatever it is we need or want to accomplish. Maybe we have said we were going to quit this, that or the other for years now, or we were going to finish this or lose that weight this year for real, or finally climb that mountain we’ve been trying to climb — figuratively or literally. Even if we have failed at those things in the past, each New Year still gives us a new hope.

And while we have our own personal goals for 2017, there are some hopes I have for our country, state and city. I am sure you have some as well. Let’s share. I’ll start!

A kinder (cyber) nation
We have just come off of one of the most divisive presidential elections I can remember. It was a long, almost two-year slogfest through some really nasty mud, and we were all dragged along for the depressing ride. Some of us even got our own fingers muddy, as we engaged in keyboard warfare as we “battled” with “friends” on Facebook or Twitter.

Social media has forever changed the way we communicate. I often long for the days where people just shared their opinions about important topics with their ACTUAL friends, not random strangers or people they knew for two seconds 15 years ago. But there is really no need to long for those days, for they are gone. Even for those of us who are just voyeurs of all this nastiness can’t help but be affected by it. Can you imagine if these “battles” were translated to the real world? We would be constantly surrounded by people arguing every place we went, 24 hours a day. What a nightmare!

And sure, it’s easy to say we could easily tune it out, but when you have to go to this “world” for other purposes — work or school or viewing photos of cute kids — it’s hard to ignore two people “screaming” at each other in all caps.

A new president is about to take office — one half of the country loves and the other half hates. Debates over his policy decisions are going to continue, AS THEY SHOULD!

But can we at least resolve to have kinder, more thoughtful discourse with one another no matter if the person is sitting in our living room or behind a computer screen 2,000 miles away? We spent a lot of time in the gutter in 2016. I hope 2017 can be the year we crawl back out of it.

A more engaged state
Scandal plagued the state of Alabama in 2016. Former speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted in June of felony ethics violations. Not long after, the whole “Luv Guv” scandal unfolded with Gov. Robert Bentley, who allegedly had an affair with his top adviser, Rebekah Mason. Tapes of him expressing his love to her and her “breasts” had the nation laughing at us … again.

We often obsess about things happening in our nation’s capital but forget about the things going on in our state capital. And policy made at that level can often affect us more than the folks on Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue. I hope 2017 is the year we can get more passionate and fired up about what’s going on in Montgomery. If they know we are watching, maybe just maybe we won’t have to deal with another national embarrassment coming from the top of Goat Hill.

A more self-centered city/county
One of the biggest stories coming out of Mobile this year was certainly the closing of the GulfQuest Maritime Museum. For the last two decades, we have had an “if we build it, they will come” mentality. Unfortunately, there have been numerous ventures the city has had to subsidize or bail out over the years, using our tax dollars to pay for building or roof repairs, power bills or just to keep the doors open — money they could have used to repair the roads, sidewalks and parks we travel on and venture to every day.

I hope our city and county leaders all learned a big lesson from our latest boondoggle and will start focusing on more public/private partnerships if they feel they must bring in such grand developments. Sure, the city has an obligation to provide its citizens with some quality-of-life facilities, but if a private company looks at a project and doesn’t want to manage it or take any risk on it themselves, that should be a huge red flag.

We have seen some capital improvements around the city this past year and it has really made a difference. I hope the council and the commission will continue to focus on those improvements rather than risky mega sports complexes and maritime museums. I am a not a baseball person but I think a bunch of base hits are way more meaningful overall than swinging for the fences and missing.

2016, you have been horrible. You brought out the worst in us and you took some of our best and brightest. 2017, we are counting on you to get us out of this funk. And I know you will. Because in the immortal words of one of those 2016 just took, we “gotta have faith, faith, faith.”

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s keep the faith!