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Relationships mold our lives, thoughts

I’ve always been told that we learn from everyone in which we come in contact and that often the hardest lessons are ones that should be common sense to us.

That rang true last week after what was an unusually long week at the office.

Last week, the newspaper hosted guests nearly all week. Of the trio of folks one each was from South Louisiana, Oklahoma and Chicago by way of Vancouver, Canada.

None had ever been to Natchez before.

They were technicians who’d come to set up a new piece of production machinery in our building.

The new machine is a platesetter. It’s sort of like a giant laser printer that images newspaper pages onto aluminum printing plates, which are loaded onto our press.

I spent a good bit of time with two of the three folks. And I was their entertainment and food adviser. As many people are when they first come to Natchez — or Mississippi for that matter — they were all a bit hesitant about the place.

After one meal, they were hooked. After a taste of the South, they immediately began asking more and more questions about the area.

One said, “My wife would love this place, maybe we’ll come back one day.”

I encouraged them to come back anytime.

The encounter reminded me of a similar experience years ago when I was picking up a job candidate at the airport in Jackson. The Midwestern young man had never been to the South and certainly not Mississippi.

The look on his face as he exited the ramp at the airport was one of fear and trepidation.

After a few moments, I finally broke the ice and said, “It’s OK here, you know. We all generally wear shoes, eat normal food and are fairly normal, despite the accents.”

He laughed and eventually grew to enjoy Natchez.

Perceptions and stereotypes are slow to change. They take getting to know one another or a place.

Visitors to Natchez almost always come away having learned something new.

By Friday afternoon, I was exhausted, but managed to make it to the Friday Forum featuring Neddie Winters, president of Mission Mississippi.

Winters is many things, but perhaps first and foremost a Christian — a pastor in fact.

But he was in Natchez to talk about Mission Mississippi. The organization has simple goals — “Changing Mississippi One Relationship at a Time.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Mission Mississippi realizes only through personal relationships can true understanding and change occur.

The group’s website touts this: “To encourage and demonstrate unity in the Body of Christ across racial and denominational lines so that communities throughout Mississippi can better understand the gospel message.” Winters was encouraging the Natchez crowd — which appeared fairly racially balanced — to stay at the table and keep getting to know one another.

“We do have issues that we disagree on,” Winters said of members of the organization. “But we don’t have to hate on one another and attack one another.

“We believe our issues should be addressed in a relationship that we develop over time.”

Mission Mississippi’s goals are excellent ones for all of our state, but perhaps particularly Natchez-Adams County, where we are often quick to see our differences rather than seeking commonalities on which to begin building. This week we’d be wise to renew our relationship with the baby who grew into a man who saved us all from our own sinful ways.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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