By Lisa Whaley

It is hard to believe that we have started a new year. When I was a child, the year 2019 could only be imagined as a space age show, complete with flying automobiles and hot-meal dispensers that could shoot out fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans at the push of a button — sort of like grandma with a computer voice and no dirty dishes.

Now, standing firmly in 2019, the world doesn’t really look that much different than 2018 or even, in some ways, 1998 or 1988. People still fall in love and get married, grandparents still spoil their grandchildren and I still believe nothing satisfies like a holiday gathering complete with the warmth of family and good food.

But things have changed — for most of us even faster than we ever imagined.

The microwave didn’t show up on the scene until the 1980s, yet statistics now indicate that more than 90 percent of home kitchens feature one.

Home computers too didn’t really begin to arrive until the ‘80s. I still remember setting up our first one — sometime in the mid-1990s – complete with a dial-up modem.

Today not only do more than 85 percent of homes have some type of computer, the once standard desktop computer is being replaced by laptops, iPads and tablets.

Phones have gone from home phones attached to a cord to cell phones complete with their own antennas, to today’s state-of-the-art devices that can not only make and accept calls, but also search the Internet, take pictures and play games. If it could make fried chicken and bring us a cup of water, we’d never have to leave our seats.

Every day there seems to be some new device to make our lives easier. In all honesty, however, the more these devices multiply, the tougher everyday life seems to become. It certainly isn’t becoming any easier.

But I can’t help but be inspired by all this ingenuity and creativity. The idea that several individuals putting their heads together perfected the microwave, GPS — or even the Keurig — is captivating.

Who knows what might happen in 2019? But while a device that can turn on and off my lights and sing me a song is clever, I have a better wish list for the new year. Here is hoping all those scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors out there are listening.

A cure for cancer. It’s an almost cliché wish, but I don’t know of anyone who has not been affected by this disease either personally or within a circle of family and friends. So many great advances have already been uncovered. If we could just slap this one down, once and for all, the world would be so much brighter

A treatment and cure for dementia. This one, of course, hits close to home for me, as my mother struggled with dementia at the end. Once you have witnessed what it can do, you do not want to see it rob one more memory.

A better health system. Whether you believe Obamacare is the best or worst thing that ever happened to America, the need for some major improvements in our healthcare is becoming more clear every day. Like the cancer statistic, nearly everyone knows someone who has struggled with getting needed care when the insurance and bank account don’t seem to comply. We need to do better than this — without turning it into simply another political football.

A way to slow down. The more gadgets we obtain, the faster we seem to go and the more we seem to lose touch with what is important. I’m not sure how we can do it, but I would love for some creative mind out there to come up with a plan/project that gets us off the hamster wheel so we can better savor the world around us.

Of course, these are just a few ideas. My list could go on and on.

I also like to remember that, while I’m not an inventor, I can still easily have some small impact on the list above. I may not have a cure for cancer, but I can reach out to someone dealing with the disease. I may not know how to rid the world of dementia, but I know the value of holding the hand of someone who is struggling.

I can let my voice be heard in Washington and Nashville to help change laws, not forgetting that human friendship and love can be the greatest healer of all.

And I can remember to occasionally take myself off the hamster wheel and take time to look at the wonder all around.

Yep, I think 2019 is going to be a wonderful year. And I believe a lot of that is up to me — and you.

Happy New Year!