With each new year, the annual ritual of making resolutions brings promises, goals and hope for a brighter future.

In 2018, the key to that brighter future may lie in spending less time debating divisive political issues, reading troubling stories about sexual improprieties in the workplace and worrying about national economic trends that are beyond our control.

My advice? Spend a few less hours in front of the television, put down your smartphone and discover the fascinating world waiting for you in your own backyard.

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Here are five suggestions to get started:

1. Attend a Council or School Board Meeting

  • Sitting through an evening of resolutions, ordinances and proclamations may not sound like fun, but it may make you feel less cynical about government and politics. Just like those on the national stage, local officials have their differences and their actions do not always paint a pretty picture, but local government offers a view of a simpler and more immediate democratic process. The people making decisions are your neighbors; the issues affect you directly, and new laws take effect quickly.

2. Buy a Ticket to a Community Theater Show or a High School Production

  • By no means is a high school musical a substitute for “Hamilton” or “Springsteen on Broadway,” but on the other hand, you’re shelling out just a fraction of the cost for a Broadway show, parking and dinner – and your money goes right back into your community. The same goes for local community theater productions. The performances may not be as polished as professional shows, but you’ll get a kick out of seeing local folks onstage. Who knows? You may see a student who babysat your kids, the receptionist from your doctor’s office or a short-order cook from your favorite luncheonette.

3. Go to a High School Sports Game

  • Boost your hometown pride by cheering for the locals. No need to worry about mega-contracts, or who may be taking a knee. Let yourself be consumed by the excitement of the game and what a victory means to each team – memories that will remain with some players for their lifetimes. If you’re lucky, you might spot a future college or NFL star on the field. But that’s just icing on the cake

4. Visit Your Local Library

  • If you think the internet has rendered public libraries obsolete, you are mistaken. The latest books, DVDs, CDs and more all are available at free public libraries. And that’s not all. Libraries present lectures, workshops and film screenings. They serve as meeting places for community groups, and they even can help you surf the net with computers and WiFi access.

5. Volunteer

  • Don’t be a bystander. Find an organization or a cause that’s important to you and get involved. Because you’ll be volunteering locally, you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor in the community you call home.

One last item: I know it sounds self-serving, but make an effort to think locally in terms of media too. Layoffs and downsizing have decimated newsrooms across the country, and local coverage has suffered. Hyperlocals like TAP are filling the gap in local coverage and keeping readers informed and educated on the events and people in their communities.

Thanks for reading and supporting TAP in 2017. May you have a very happy and healthy 2018.