As we wake up on Christmas morning 2021, many of us will be experiencing the sense that we have made it to some kind of finish line.
Amid the flurry of last minute shopping, the strains of cheesy carols, and the strategic wrangling of relatives, there has also been a strong sense of caution as the COVID numbers continue to rise.
But there is also a sense of gratitude.
Many familes are being reunited after many months apart, and while things are not completely back to normal, we can glimpse hope ahead.
The shared experience of the last couple of years has left us all changed in some way, and perhaps in ways we don't yet realise.
There have been many examples of people acting with a little more patience and a little more kindness than usual.
Stories abound about people "paying it forward".
This often occurs in the supermarket, with shoppers paying the bill of someone in the checkout line who looks harried, stressed or contemplating putting items back as they worriedly watch the tally on the cash register.
In Launceston, Wollongong and the Gold Coast, there have been examples of anonymous donors clearing the laybys for people who have been paying off their Christmas toys.
When the shoppers came to finalise their payments, most were moved to tears when they learned of the great kindess of strangers.
Our newspapers in recent weeks have also reflected the joy felt in our region with the return of community events.
Carols, balls and festivals are on once again, and for us, these are more than circled dates on a calendar.
These events bring back social connection, something that has been severely disrupted now for many long months.
At the end of a difficult year, we hope you have enjoyed following the local news brought to you by our hardworking journalists, and we thank you for your support.
From all of us at ACM, a happy and safe Christmas, and one where it will be more meaningful than ever to unwrap the most valuable gift of all; time spent with family and friends.
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