As my household gets ready to celebrate my birthday, another year older, passing the mid fifty range and getting ever so close to sixty, I let my mind wander back over the past year. My thoughts keep going back to the opening words of a speech that Queen Elizabeth II gave in 1992, dubbed the “Annus Horribilis” speech. Replacing 1992 with 2017, I will take the liberty of plagiarizing Her Majesty’s words:

“2017 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis.’ I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty.”

Wow! Those words are a perfect fit for how I feel looking back over this past year. I’ve endured a full year of “The Donald” as President, endless sexual harassment scandals, continued attacks by Republican lawmakers on the Middle Class, tax breaks for the wealthy, my brother’s diagnosis of two separate cancers, stagnant wages for working members of my household, of Hurricane Irma damage that will not be fixed anytime soon, gun violence, the hardships that my dear friend Luis has had to endure in Puerto Rico, and then just last week, the extinguishing of a shining bright star close to home with the sad passing of Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee. This year has definitely been an Annus Horribilis.

Sometimes we must be hit hard with a load of bullshit before we realize how lucky and blessed we really are. I am alive, healthy and surrounded by wonderful family and friends. I live in a wonderful place called Wilton Manors, a city that prides itself on tolerance and diversity. I wake up each morning, not as a refugee from the horrors of war-torn Syria or the genocide of Rohingya’s in Myanmar, but surrounded by wonderful neighbors here on the Westside of Wilton Manors. I am working, have healthcare insurance, can pay my bills and have a roof over my head. Although the skies are darker than they have been for a long, long time, there are always rays of hope and happiness peeking through.

As we struggle with all the uncertainty of the outside world, let us all do our part to keep our sanctuary, Wilton Manors, the safe, open-minded and welcoming place for us to enjoy and feel safe within. Talk with your neighbors, get to know your elected officials and city staff, lend a helping hand to those in need, and get out into your community.

Beyond our borders, the world seems way out of whack, as though some kind of force field has altered reality. Fiscal Republicans are voting for a tax bill that will add a trillion dollars to the nation’s debt. The President tweets insults aimed at our closest allies. Media millionaires cannot keep their hands to themselves. Religious zealots attack those who are different. Heroin overdoses are a leading cause of death in America. Fighting over the right to healthcare. Science and proven fact are routinely cast aside and ridiculed as Fake News. Americans who worked with Russian agents to rig an election are not imprisoned for the high crime of treason. It all seems very strange and unreal, like being lost in a nightmare.

Just as I am about to be pulled completely within the realm of this strange altered reality, I quickly start clicking my heels while repeating, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” When I open my eyes, I’m thankfully back home here in wonderful Wilton Manors.

So go ahead, put on those rose-tinted glasses, and begin to see things more optimistically. Add in some lightheartedness and a lot of laughter. Make it infectious and spread good cheer throughout the Holiday Season. Let’s make 2018 an Annus Mirabilis and, as always, continue to make life just better here.

Good-bye, dear Bishop. Here’s to remembering your laughter, your smile, and your energy. Godspeed.