It is a bit of a problem to compose a column that will probably run during the week that has Christmas as its exact midpoint (unless of course, you are the religion editor). There are ample serious matters underway at the federal and state levels of mis-government which deserve some kind of reality checks, but given the ambiance of the season I'll let them pass for now. January looms.

First, let me be the first to congratulate the graduates of 2014. You have made it this far, and you know you are guaranteed to graduate on schedule, assuming that you avoid any colossal screw-ups between now and June; so, again, congratulations. Go forth, and do. If college is in your plans, consider three things. 1. Stop putting it off and fill out your applications now. 2. Ask your smartest teachers to write your recommendations. Hopefully, these are your favorite teachers as well. Admissions officers grade the skills of the writers of your recommendations, not what they say about you. It won't help much if the letter says, "Skagleshank done good in my class, he got a "A"." 3. If you need to, clean up your study habits and work ethic. Remember, the reason you are in the top half of your class is that the bottom half lives in your town. They won't be around to make you look good at the college of your choice.

If you are not planning on college you actually have a tougher job to do. You need an immediate plan, or at least a plan to get a plan. You have to figure out what you are going to do now, not four years from now. One advantage you have is that the cost of college is so high that the odds are you will be about $90,000 richer than your friends will be in four years.

Speaking of plans, try to plan to detour around Shaftsbury for a few weeks. If you can't do that, wear a blaze orange jacket or an armored vest. I have no clue as to the merits of any of the several issues the voters there are feuding about. However, if the reporting in this paper is even halfway accurate, the Shaftsburians seem as if they might erupt into a shooting war any day now. The heated debates about what should be done have deteriorated into questions of personal motive and integrity. This is always a bad turn of events for any public discourse.

It is supposed to be a season to reflect on, and perhaps work for, peace and good will. Easier said than done, as always. My suggestion is that we should all turn off any TV news, not read any newspapers except for the comics and sport pages and not make any noise ourselves except for pleasant conversations with friends. Keep this regimen until at least some time in January.

To borrow from Charles Dickens, the "spirit of Christmas present" shows us arguing over whether or not Santa might be black, ranting about how Megyn Kelly spells her first name, Miley twerking, Bernie about to announce for President and the old geezer on Duck Dynasty making an anti-gay statement. Dickens' "spirit of Christmas future" was pretty vague about it all. In the end, old Scrooge did figure out a plan for himself to put his priorities in some kind of better order. If you are not a fan of Christmas, not a problem. Scrooge's "eureka moment" can apply to all of us if we let it. If each of us actually concerns ourselves with peace, goodwill and common sense, perhaps these vibes will trickle up to the loons that dominate the media and our governments. All of us die-hard optimists know there is a pony here someplace. Merry Christmas and have a happy Hogmany!

Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.