Harlan: I'm grateful for an engaged community

Things have been quiet on the Mesa. Perhaps it's the result of an exhausting campaign season. I, for one, have enjoyed the relative absence of any politicking over the past few weeks. Or is this just the calm before the storm?

I'd prefer to believe we're just following the natural, seasonal shift, breezing through fall and preparing for winter and the New Year. It's customary during this time — especially after a Thanksgiving-induced food coma — to take stock of the past year's events and consider how things may change for the upcoming one.

In this spirit, I offer my incomplete list of the gratitude I feel for living in a community that provides equal measures of hope, frustration, joy and inspiration.

I am grateful for how broadly and passionately the Costa Mesa community has engaged in the political process. And I deeply respect the level of active participation, where hundreds of ordinary folks have been energized to get involved in our city's governance. I'm hopeful we can capitalize on this interest and vigilance and work together toward advancing a common vision.

I am grateful for the service of our public officials and their dedication to governing our fair city for the benefit of the entire community.

I am grateful for the hundreds of dedicated city employees who, under the most unstable and challenging circumstances, continue to serve our community effectively with grace, dignity and professionalism.

I am grateful for the Costa Mesa residents who bravely stepped up to the challenge of running for elected office. Leading and managing an effective campaign is no small task, and I appreciate the commitment these men and women made, and the hard work they invested, to give us choices for our representation.

I am grateful to live in a dynamic city where new relationships and organizations are born of a common desire to improve our collective circumstances. No one has a monopoly on contributing to our growth and prosperity, and it is refreshing to see such a wide spectrum of passionate people commit to enhancing our community.

I am grateful to the number of social service agencies, organizations and individuals who care for those in our community who desperately need assistance. Sadly, the demands on these entities have grown over the past few years. Their work is vital, not just to the people who receive help, but also to the Newport-Mesa community as a whole.

I am grateful to live on a block where we look after each other, where neighbors are constantly communicating, gathering and sharing. I take pleasure in knowing that, whether it's a casual wave "hello," helping with a home-improvement project, or hosting an impromptu barbecue, my neighbors are genuinely good and caring people.

I am grateful for the opportunity to express my opinions in this column. While we regularly obtain our information from a variety of sources, from websites to blogs to radio and TV, I appreciate having an objective, truly local newspaper of record.

I am grateful for the work of countless volunteers — in our classrooms, at our sports fields, parks open spaces, and senior centers, and with our houses of worship — who give their time and expertise for the benefit of others. While this is the season when philanthropy becomes more apparent, our community's volunteers work tirelessly all year long to improve our physical, mental and civic well being.

I am grateful for my family, friends and colleagues who have lent a helping hand, offered a receptive ear, and given words of encouragement and inspiration during a difficult year. Your kindness, above all, has kept me optimistic, motivated and smiling.

I am grateful for the unconditional love my daughters, Sophie and Evie, furnish every day. Is there anything more a parent really needs?

And I am especially thankful for my wife, Melinda, who shares with me all of the highs and lows that come with marriage and parenthood. Although I don't tell her often enough, I sincerely appreciate her patience, support and love.

There's plenty to be thankful for in Costa Mesa, and I look forward to a new year filled with promise, peace and prosperity.

JEFFREY HARLAN is an urban planner who lives on the Eastside of Costa Mesa.

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