Looking forward to a positive 2024 on Mercer Island | John Hamer

As we begin a new year with many dark clouds on the horizon, I hope my columns have given readers a few reasons to smile and be grateful for what we have in our community — which is lots of people reaching out to help one another.

About a year ago, the editor of this newspaper called to ask if I would meet him for coffee. I had written a couple of guest columns for the Mercer Island Reporter and figured he just wanted to get to know me better.

Instead, he asked if I would like to start writing a regular column. My first reaction was negative. I had written a weekly editorial page column for The Seattle Times for 15 years, and I didn’t really want to do that again. A weekly deadline was a pain, I told him. Topics are tough to come up with. I’m retired. I take a nap every day. I’m lazy.

“Well, think about it and let me know if you change your mind,” he said. A few days later, I called Andy Hobbs and said I’d give it a try under three conditions:

1) No weekly deadline; I’d write whenever I felt like it.

2) I would only write about positive things; no exposes, scandals or critical columns, like I used to write.

3) I didn’t want to be paid because then I’d feel obligated to write more often.

To my surprise, he agreed to all my requests.

So here I am, a year later, having produced a few dozen columns. Andy decided to call this “Hamer Time.” Not my idea, but I’m fine with it.

My goal has been to focus on good things that people are doing here on our island to help other people and benefit the community. Thankfully, we’re doing a lot.

Here are just a few of the topics I covered over the last year. You may recall these columns, which are all available online at mi-reporter.com.

• Dec. 28, 2022, “Friends and neighbors help build a new path for my grandson:” My grandson Ford is in a wheelchair and I needed to build a new sidewalk to our ramped front porch. After I wrote about it, at least a dozen people — some total strangers — offered to help. A few spent several hours working on the sidewalk and refused to accept any payment.

• Jan. 25, 2023, “Mercer Islander’s old romance doubles as a brush with history:” I had met Alan Woog, who had dated Coretta Scott at Antioch College in Ohio before she ever met Martin Luther King Jr. They had a serious romance and considered getting married, but changed their minds. Alan stayed in touch with her and met MLK Jr. He passed away this year, but told his wonderful story in my column.

• March 15, “Mercer Island couple helps Ukraine with Refuse to Quit:” This told of Dan and Daria Absher, who with some friends started an organization to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine after the Russian invasion. They visited that war-torn nation more than once and helped save many lives.

• April 19, “Let’s show Mercer Island some more Earth Day Love:” As Earth Day approached, I listed several things individuals could do to help the environment without the need for big and expensive government programs. “Think globally, act locally,” I wrote.

• July 25, “Islanders, police connect on National Night Out:” After introducing myself to Tana Senn, a neighbor out walking her dog, we organized a gathering of folks who lived on our street. We had BBQ, salads, cookies, beverages, and got to know everyone better. Now we stay in touch and watch out for each other.

• Aug. 22, “Science proves the benefits of walking on Mercer Island:” After hearing University of Washington professor John Medina speak, I wrote about how his research and book, “Brain Rules for Aging Well,” proved that walking — especially in forested areas and to a water feature like a lake, pond or stream — actually helps improve our brains and increases longevity.

• Oct. 25, “Mercer Island could use a few good Forest Stewards:” Our city’s Parks and Recreation Department, under the leadership of Jordan Fischer, trains citizens to be stewards of our parks and open spaces. I took the training along with a dozen others and we all now work to help the city maintain our parks by planting trees and shrubs, pulling ivy, spreading mulch and raking leaves.

• Nov. 15 , “Mercer Island students deserve a fist bump:” Our Rotary Club gives “Student of the Month” awards to Mercer Island High School kids for outstanding achievements. Our four November winners blew me away with their extraordinary accomplishments.

• Dec. 13, “Festival of Lights means more this year on Mercer Island:” The Menorah Lighting at Mercerdale Park on Dec. 7, the first day of Hanukkah, took on special meaning because of the barbaric attacks on Israel by Hamas. I attended and interviewed people about the event. It was a profoundly moving evening.

As we begin a new year with many dark clouds on the horizon, I hope my columns have given readers a few reasons to smile and be grateful for what we have in our community — which is lots of people reaching out to help one another.

What are you doing that I might write about in 2024? Let me know by email or on my Facebook page. Positive stories only, please. Happy New Year!

John Hamer (jhamer46@gmail.com) has lived on Mercer Island for 25 years and was active in the renovation of Mercerdale Park playground. He has four grandchildren and is a member of the Rotary Club of Mercer Island.