By James M. Decker

No matter what life throws at us, we always have an opportunity for a fresh start. Bad day at work? When you go to bed, you get to start a new day when you wake up. Rough week in life? You can’t go back and change the bad week, but come Sunday morning, it’s a new week with an opportunity to write a new, better story than the week before.

The same holds true for a new year. No matter what happened last year, last year doesn’t define next year. That applies to both the good and bad. A bad year doesn’t have to drag down the next year, but a good year and good accomplishments don’t guarantee the same in the coming year.

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In our communities, the beginning of a new school year sometimes better defines a “new year” than January 1. When the calendar flips from December 31 to January 1, it’s often just another day and an opportunity to foul up the correct date on documents for the next two months. A new school year, on the other hand, presents noticeable, significant change. Those children you’ve known since infancy are now high school graduates and they leave town for college or jobs. New faces start popping up as new teachers and administrators establish their place in town, while other faces move on to new locales or take up new positions within the community. After a lull in the summer, school and youth activities—athletic events, concerts and performances, practices, and competitions—start to wind back up and quickly fill the community calendar.

As our new year in the community begins, the troubles and successes of the last year don’t matter. A child who struggled in school or a competitive team that was outmanned last year might find great success in the coming year. So may it go in our communities as well.

As some of you may have seen, a group of young professionals in Stamford recently identified an area of need within our community and organized the first annual Better Stamford School Supply Drive. Within a short time period, this effort raised over $8,000 in cash donations, plus numerous in-kind donations of school supplies, for distribution to students within our community. What a great way to kick off our new year, a community expressing love for its children by opening up their generous hearts and by new leaders stepping up to make an impact. It’s hard to know what the future will hold for the 2017-18 school year, but that’s a fine way to start.

Good or bad, what happened in the past school year is over and done in each of our communities. A new school year is upon us. With that, each of us have new opportunities to grow, thrive, and make an impact on the community around us. Where and how will you step up?


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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at


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