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Saunders: 'After passing Pluto, on to Ultima Thule' — let's keep going beyond

I looked around the other day at what I was doing and realized how very routine and mundane many of the things really are. Things like making the bed every day, brushing my teeth, taking a bath, washing my hair, doing laundry, going to the store, vacuuming, walking the dog the same times every day, making almost the same salad every day for lunch and the same cereal for breakfast, ad infinitum. Then there are all those other mundane things I should do like cleaning out closets and drawers, washing windows, ad infinitum. Perhaps I am suffering from the winter blahs!

Even my dog’s food company sent an email about helping my pet fight the “winter blues!” The company enumerated better walks, stimulating meals, playing games with treats, and on and on. Evidently even pets incorporate our feelings of gloominess at this time of the year.

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But then I tell myself in the words of our chaplain at Carroll Lutheran Village that “I’m too young to be this old” and feeling down! After all, my routine includes many more things than those listed above. Just writing this column every month challenges me to think and ponder, surely a good thing. And many of my other activities are anything but mundane and boring.

In fact, they are challenging, I’m glad to say. We prime-ers need challenges to keep us from being bored with our routines. That is why I have been happy to serve on the Commission on Aging & Disabilities, now in my sixth and final year, having served the last two years as chair. Working with Celene Steckel, chief of the Bureau of Aging & Disabilities for Carroll County, and her marvelous staff has been both challenging and rewarding. Challenging because of the numerous programs that the Bureau offers to all the citizens of Carroll County and rewarding for exactly the same reason — there is something for all who are aging and disabled.

The Commission is now working on the much-preferred concept of “Aging in Place” for seniors in Carroll County. Under the leadership of Jim McCarron, vice-chair of the Commission and mayor of Taneytown, the concept is moving forward based on the results of a survey conducted by the Commission and McDaniel College, with a very pressing need being transportation. We await the results and implementation of “Aging in Place.”

Another challenging but rewarding “job” is chairing the Exterior Care & Grounds Committee of the Village’s Resident Association Council.

Just because we depend on the Village for the upkeep of our residences, including lawn mowing and snow removal, we as residents want the facility to have the best curb appeal possible for all the new arrivals. Committee members walk the 90-plus-acre campus with maintenance staff and groundskeeper to remedy any imperfections and to add beautification projects.

And now I have found another niche where I can be challenged. Executive Director Edward Leister of Carroll County Food Sunday has asked me to join the Board of Food Sunday as first vice president, a position that has been vacant for some time. After touring the Food Sunday operation and hearing about the kinds of services provided, I sent in my application to be part of this very worthwhile program and was accepted by the other members of the Board. All I can say is how wonderful it is to be asked to take on the challenge and responsibility of helping those in need. (When my friend and former boss Michele heard the news, she said of me: “You just can’t sit still.”)

This group has been doing such a wonderful service for Carroll County for over 36 years since its founding by Dominic Jollie in 1982. For a nonprofit to distribute 8,000 pounds of food per week to nearly 400 families (2017 figures) is indeed staggering but also indicative of the generosity of Carroll countians! Let’s keep up the good work!

By now you are wondering where this article is going, especially after reading the title, a title taken from the Carroll County Times’ Christmas Day edition of the newspaper. The article intrigued me, so I kept it and read it several times.

It is about the Hopkins-led New Horizons mission bound for an object beyond Pluto and the known world. In fact, Ultima Thule means “beyond the known world,” a dark speck 4 billion miles from Earth. And speck it is at 1/100th the diameter of Pluto and 1/10,000th its brightness and like Pluto part of the Kuiper Belt, the region of the Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune and containing comets, asteroids and other small bodies made of ice. Ultima Thule looks like a snowman with a small head and larger body.

Although New Horizons flew at a distance of 2,200 miles from the speck at over 31,000 mph, scientists will be studying the evidence gathered for years to come to try to understand how the Solar System was first formed before any planets formed.

While this mystery is very intriguing to me, it speaks to me of how we should live our lives — always going beyond what is known and what we have experienced to take on additional challenges — and to use our talents and skills for worthwhile causes. Or, put another way from a devotional booklet I was reading at the end of December: “This year, as you pack up the Christmas decorations, don’t put away the spirit of Christmas.”

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