It’s almost mid-January in MI Town, and it seems like springtime is out there on the horizon, far away. It’s hard to think about sunshine and flowers when there’s a constant cleaning up of muddy footprints from spouses, children and pets; and the coat closet has a lingering scent from wet wool coats and jackets.

Our local mayors and city councilors are facing the opportunities and challenges offered by the new year and a better economic outlook that’s been promised by the Powers that Be in Washington, D.C. As always, there is a need for citizens to participate as volunteers for various committees and groups, so if you have a few hours and good ideas, please contact either city hall for more information. Now that the busy-ness of the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, bundle up and take good walks around our communities to see what’s going on.

We began the brand new year of 2018 enjoying a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, and biscuits and gravy thanks to the Monmouth-Independence Lions Club, whose members offer MI Town residents and their family members a free community breakfast on Jan. 1 every year. The Lions are involved in many worthwhile activities in both Independence and Monmouth and are always there to help in many ways.

Winter term has begun for Western Oregon University students, and the calendar is full of ongoing events and classes for everyone. The campus is buzzing with new voices and the return of familiar students who are eager to get involved with school and social activities. MI Town residents have an excellent opportunity to meet students from all over the world, and to help them feel welcome in our community. Language barriers all but disappear when people take the time to listen and try to understand one another. Many of our international students have never been far away from the communities they call home. Some students have lived their entire lives in high-rise buildings in big cities, and have never experienced life in small communities bordered by agriculture and farming activity.

A friendly smile and a warm handshake can make all the difference. Those of us who have college students for neighbors can welcome them to their houses or apartments with a plate of cookies, and we can take that opportunity to get to know them a little better. And the students can take a few moments to learn about our community and their neighbors, too. We can all be good neighbors with a little time and effort on everybody’s part.

We can all find good ways to banish the midwinter gloom and enjoy life in MI Town.

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