The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


December 29, 2013


A year-ending AP-Times Square poll made us pause last week to consider just why so many Americans in the survey are happy to see the year 2013 in their rear-view mirror.

The pollsters found that:

n The public splits evenly on how the year turned out for the country, 25 percent saying it was better than 2012, 25 percent saying it was worse. The rest were somewhere in-between.

n Thinking about the world at large, 30 percent say 2013 was worse than 2012, while just 20 percent say it was better.

n All told, 32 percent say 2013 was a better year for them than 2012, while 20 percent say it was worse and 46 percent say the two years were really about the same. Young people were more apt to see improvement: 40 percent of people under age 30 called 2013 a better year than 2012, compared with 25 percent of people age 65 or older.

The outlook for the new year? Forty-nine percent think their own fortunes will improve in 2014; 14 percent are anticipating the new year to be a downgrade from the old. Thirty-four percent say they don’t expect much to change.

We grow a bit thoughtful about just why so many fellow Americans are dour about the future.

We find that particularly at odds with the joy and generosity we experienced here in southern West Virginia over the past few weeks as the Christmas holiday progressed.

We were reminded last week of the terrible fire in Marlinton, and how the town is struggling to regain its footing and a plan for its future.

At the time of the fire, we recall the extraordinary outpouring of support for the families that were displaced. Within days, the Marlinton volunteers were so overwhelmed with donations of clothing and other goods that they put out an emergency call to say Stop!

Later in the year, as Christmas approached, the generous nature of southern West Virginians was on display everywhere.

Kroger donated money to fund 200,000 meals for the Mountaineer Food Bank.

And Mac’s Toy Fund and Toys for Tots raised tens of thousands of dollars to make sure poor children found some joy on Christmas morning.

Local military veterans were not forgotten, as donations poured in for them at the Beckley VA Medical Center.

Donations of food and other items also piled up at the financially troubled Raleigh County Humane Society, proving that West Virginians have hearts big enough for everybody and everything.

So we wonder how so many Americans look to the next year and anticipate that it will be worse than 2013.

Maybe we’re still wrapped up in the warmth of the Christmas season, but we can’t help but feel the rest of the country is missing something southern West Virginians already understand.

There may be times we don’t have much, at least by today’s consumer standards, but what makes us different is that we’re so willing to share what we do have.

That makes us a little more optimistic about not just the year 2014, but beyond it as well.

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