Fare-thee-well 2017, and welcome to 2018, Jersey Shore! Now, it most certainly can be debated if time is just man-made, or if it really even exists in the first place. I mean, did time exist before we created marks on the cavewalls to keep track, and now use calendars on our smartphones?
One thing is certain: Marking time is a great way to observe and commemorate events along our journey in life. Birthdays, holidays, joys and sad times are all easily kept track of with dates to remember them.
I love observing, pondering, and reflecting on the cycles, patterns, and ups and downs that occur along our voyages of life.
I often remember entire seasons, and what their nature was like that year. Like the winter season of 2014-15, when a long, deep-freeze settled at the Shore, and the bay froze over for many weeks.
Or the summer of ’09, when a very intense heat wave hit and I canoed overnight with just a friend though the Pine Barrens. I remember that because we slept outside under the stars, since it was too hot in our tents.
And then there was this year, 2017, at the Shore. I found that there were many vibrant adventures, happy occurrences, and yes, some sad notes this past year at the Shore.
This year the Jersey coast favored us with amazingly beautiful, warm Atlantic waters, especially from the second half of July on. (Photo below in Seaside Park.)
But sadly too many people were lost to those very same waters, especially after Labor Day weekend, when those same warm, clear waters beckoned in the hot September weather. Memorials to those tragically lost popped up all over the coast. (Photo below in Seaside Park.)
As for the individual journeys of those I had the privilege to interview, I was blessed with several hundred stories that were featured on this page in 2017.
There were inspirational stories such as...
The mom and daughter who bonded over challenges and crafts.
Or the young man who found a purpose with nothing but a bike and compassion.
And then the young girl who is following her dreams and her father who encourages her every step of the way.
And also the man who discovered a new passion at 60.
Then there were the heartbreaking stories…
Such as a family that I interviewed two years ago whom I had come to greatly care about… and this late August, the father and husband passed away.
Or the man whose addicted brother he loved dearly.
Then there were…
And the local celebrities.
There were a lot of meaningful stories for me this year, and I am a better person for all of the people I met, the shore towns I visited, and the adventures I experienced on behalf of this page.
But a particular story that is very close to my heart is about a man who wants to change the narrative of an epidemic at the Shore…
“Everyone knows that Ocean County has such a big drug epidemic. I think it’s unfair though, to talk about the epidemic without talking about recovery.
“What has been bothering me about the internet is that there is so much debate whether addiction is a disease or a choice, but it really doesn’t matter. The only choice that matters is to choose recovery and a better way of life.
“I was fortunate enough to find the recovery community in Ocean County when I needed it. I found people who spoke the same language as me, and I wasn’t alone in my addiction anymore.
“In a few weeks, I am coming up on three years clean, and I have so much gratitude. I just want people to know that there is a choice to get help, to get into recovery. And that is the story, all of the people that choose life over drugs. I want people to start shining the light on that more.”
Full story originally featured on facebook:
And that is how I want to end 2017: with a note of encouragement, that every single day we have a gift called “choice.” We get to choose how we live each day.
My prayer is that every person reading this realizes they are worth the choice to be a difference-maker in this world.
Even if it is just smiling and saying “hello” to the gas attendant or cashier and asking how their day is going. Or deciding to go for it and starting their own business to sweeten people’s days despite their disabilities. If we can look for the light in this world, we can become light-bearers ourselves, and help make this world a better place.
May you all have a Happy New Year for 2018.
~ Gregory Andrus
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