In the next few hours, Father Time will close the books on 2017.

The turning of the final calendar page is always a time for reflection. Too many times, our thoughts turn toward the negative. What went wrong? What could we have done better? What can we do in the next year to improve ourselves and the world we live in?

Truthfully, with all the issues facing Southern Illinois, Illinois, the United States and the world at large, it’s difficult to conjure up any sincere optimism.

No matter what spin we put on it, Illinois will still face serious financial issues this year. Locally, the Southern Illinoisan’s series on public housing in Cairo continues to peel back stories of possible corruption. Domestically, we are still looking at an administration under investigation for Russian collusion and possible obstruction of justice. And, North Korea and the Middle East remain powder kegs.

But, if we mine a bit deeper — if we look beyond the headlines — we see there are still millions of wonderful people populating the planet. Leafing through the pages of the newspaper, it is clear that many of the most human of beings live here in Southern Illinois.

These are just some of the stories emanating from Southern Illinois this year that cause us to pause and be thankful for our better angels:

• In April, Isaac Smith told the story of Michelle Hutchison of Vienna. Over the past 20 years she has taken 22 medically fragile foster children into her home. The story was written shortly after one of those children had died as the result of a condition he was born with — central nuclear myopathy. She took the child under her care in 2015, knowing his life expectancy was just two years.

• Also in April, Janis Esch reported on a naturalization ceremony at the SIU Arena in which 49 individuals became naturalized citizens of this country. We’ll let one tell the story:

Corné Prozesky, who came to SIU on an athletic scholarship from South Africa in 1997 and became a citizen in 2010, gave a misty-eyed speech. “America let us be free. They let us buy a house, let us go on vacation, let us buy a car, they let us be. Now, as United States citizens, we are allowed to take it one step further: America believes that all men and women are created equal,” Prozesky said. “These rights are so sacred that they cannot be given away or sold at any price. Each of us now has the same single vote that the United States president, state governors and senators have on Election Day. You are now equal to every other citizen in the country.

• In March, Marilyn Halstead reported on Carterville police officers Travis Morgan and Ryan Prather and Crainville officer Sean Dobbins being honored for saving the life of Brian Whitecotton. Whitecotton was working on his car when it fell off its jack and landed on him. When the officers arrived, Whitecotton was no longer breathing. The three men lifted the car into the air, allowing Whitecotton’s mother to free him. Their actions saved him from being crushed.

• In October, Stephanie Esters told the story of Ben Arbeiter’s friends and neighbors harvesting his soybean crop. Arbeiter, of Murphysboro, was killed in an August accident. When the soybean crop was ready for harvest, the two dozen volunteers combined all 1,400 acres. They not only harvested the crops, but also drove them to market.

Yes, it’s tempting to look at the worst of humanity and see those examples as the norm. However, the stories told by our reporters during the course of the year proves it is realistic to hope that good can prevail.

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