Here we are, on the last day of 2009. Some might say, good riddance. Bring on the new year, because it can’t arrive quickly enough. That’s because for some, the answer to the question, “Are you better off than you were this time last year?” does not come out in their favor.

They would be the ones who suffered income loses – if not their jobs – as a result of the fallout from what is described as the nation’s worst economic recession since 1929. The meltdown of the financial markets that struck in late 2008 cost many Americans significant percentages of the retirement nest eggs. Along the way, many also lost confidence in the systems that they had depended on to protect their financial futures.

But the process, as painful as it has been for many, has forced people to focus anew on things that are even more important. It has reminded them of lessons that they were taught by their parents about thrift and waste. It has revived creative, though less extravagant, ways to entertain our families and our friends when we gather for fun. And it has renewed the willingness of those who still have something left to share to be generous when they see the needs of others who are suffering.

For those willing to count blessings, the Brownwood area and most of Texas is an economic garden spot compared to other regions of the nation. But that doesn’t mean thousands of Texans have escaped hardship. Still, Texas doesn’t have as deep a hole to climb out of as other states, although completely smooth sailing is not assured.

Nationally, the combination of economic unrest and wars abroad did not distract the White House and Congress from what appears to be their collective Job 1: health care reform. Texans – the majority of whom have expressed through the ballot box, town-hall meetings and elsewhere political leanings that run contrary to the Washington majority – have had a difficult time to even become a part of the discussion. But the 2010 brings “off-year” elections, and opportunities for those in the minority to see – both at the state and national levels – what the voters think of how government is being run. There have been plenty of lessons for both sides to learn during 2009.

It’s almost all history now, and 2010 is poised to unfold. New years always begin with a hope and a prayer for better times to come. At this juncture, we understand that it’s going to take some hard work for those hopes to come true. But if wisdom, experience and concern for our neighbors count as much as dollars and cents, it could be that we’ve gained more in 2009 than we realize.

Brownwood Bulletin