Editor's Viewpoint: More reasons for hope than despair
Heavy rain, icy blasts, warnings that austerity measures will last another six years and violent thuggery on our streets.
Against such a backdrop anyone in Northern Ireland could be forgiven for feeling depressed even if it is the festive season. Yet all of the above are only small pieces in the real day-to-day picture of life in the province. When they are put in perspective, suddenly society here takes on a rosier hue.
A quick scan through this newspaper reveals a number of inspirational stories which are a truer reflection of the lives led by the vast majority of people here. Take the women who were honoured at our Women of the Year awards on Wednesday night. They have triumphed over adversity, shown real courage or entrepreneurial zeal or brightened up our lives through the arts or enriched us through education or medical advances. And the guests also contributed nearly £1,500 to our CLIC Sargent appeal to get two new Homes from Home off the ground in Belfast.
Or take the story of Tommy Stewart, now aged 88, who has spent 35 years volunteering to help people with mental health problems and also caring full-time for his wife. He is a man who epitomises selflessness and is typical of so many people in our society. Read also about our efforts in a joint initiative with AgeNI to help the elderly get the benefits they are entitled to and which they desperately need.
None of these stories will make headlines around the world like the despicable attacks on Alliance Party members and their homes and offices. At times we feel close to despair because of such events, but we should remember that the vast majority of people are not out protesting on the streets, but instead living constructive peaceful lives, content to live with their neighbours and keep their politics, if they have any, for the polling booth. They are contributing to society and concerned about their friends and families.
It is sometimes hard to see but the real picture of Northern Ireland gives us hope rather than despair.