Mercifully, the year ended with a smile.

By the anecdotal evidence that I collected over the past two weeks, a simple smile was pretty much a major victory against the forces of darkness that seemed to linger throughout the year, not just during this naturally dark time of year.

One piece of evidence in support of my thesis: The December 24 New York Times “Year in Pictures” section. It was titled “Tragedy. Triumph. Trump — Photographs that tell the story of a world in tumult.” The editors managed to find a few images of pure joy. The best one to my eye was the photo of an eight-year-old boy leaping playfully from one pew to another in an otherwise empty Quaker meeting in Denver. The caption wasn’t so joyous: The boy’s mother was an immigrant facing deportation and they sought refuge at the church and had been there six months.

The photos ranged from natural disaster to organized warfare to isolated acts of inhumanity. In the latter category was the photo of the car ramming into the crowd of counter-protesters at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The longer you look at it, the more bodies you see flying through the air or lying on the ground. You begin to notice eyeglasses flying through the air, shoes lying on the ground. You wonder: Did that pair just below the rear bumper of the attack car belong to the one person killed in the attack?

This issue of U.S. 1 is normally called the “Survival Guide” issue. It has been a way to recycle and reformat stories printed throughout the year dealing with “survival” tactics for your business and career — networking, job seeking, marketing, streamlining, and so on.

This year I couldn’t do it. In the dark days I thought back to some of the bright ideas that came my way from various press releases and postings over the past year. They represented the kind of thinking that we have come to expect from our creative community. Since most of them didn’t get printed, this issue was a chance to redeem myself a little. I especially enjoyed the “One Hundred Rules for the Aspiring Painter,” by Tom Kelly. Probably half of Kelly’s “rules” can also apply to aspiring writers or doctors or entrepreneurs. We really are in this together.

The year ended with that smile. It was the smiling face of George Fox, husband of my longtime colleague Barbara Fox, who died December 12 at the age of 78. George’s smile beamed from the front cover of the program for an uplifting memorial service on December 30. As Barbara said at that service, there were “really hard times” to endure during George’s illness. But then, often, “something unexpected happened to redeem that moment.”

We will carry that smile with us into 2018. We’ll need it.

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