‘A lot to be thankful for’ this season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 21, 2000

&uot;For some reason, I’m looking forward to this Thanksgiving more than any recent one. A lot to be thankful for, I think …&uot; That note was an afterthought on a e-mail from a friend this week, and it made me smile when I read it. Thinking of Dennis Palmer and his family — including their son Ashley and his new baby sister born this fall — I smiled at the thought of Palmers’ Thanksgiving. And, at the sweetness of Dennis’ simple heartfelt sentiment.

It seems we’re all in the mode of taking stock of our blessings this week, as we should be. Once a year seems like a stingy investment in giving thanks for the people, or the circumstances, we cherish. And, sometimes, I wonder if we stop to look outside our closest circle of blessings, to be thankful for the people whose influence on our lives may be less obvious, less frequent, but nonetheless a blessing. They tend to show themselves when least expected, in quiet and subtle ways, and as I’ve paid more attention to them, I’ve developed quite a long list in my journal.

This year, I’m especially thankful for:

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4Fred Marsalis’ willingness to &uot;Drop Everything and Read.&uot; To say the Vidalia Junior High School principal takes his DEAR program seriously is an understatement. He’s even been known to call the custodians down off their lawn tractors and order them to &uot;go find something to read, now&uot; during the 10-minute, mandatory reading time.

On a Tuesday morning in October, Marsalis stopped a conversation with guests at the school to issue his call, then he took the time to explain to his visitors why he’d seemed so militant. &uot;We stick to that program,&uot; he said. &uot;For 10 minutes — everyone, janitor, cafeteria workers, teachers, students — must drop everything and find something to read.&uot;

Now that is conviction; and it’s that kind of leadership that makes a lasting impression on not only the young people Marsalis teaches, but the adults who have the opportunity to work with him.

4The firefighters at the Central Fire Station and the Bypass Fire Station and Station No. 3 … and No. 4 … and, well, you get the picture. They wave, they smile and they greet my little firemen-in-training with warmth and excitement every time we visit — which, I must admit, is quite often these days — and they’re equally as patient when we see them out. Gladly, I’ve learned that hospitality extends beyond Natchez. We’ve visited fire stations in Orange Beach, Fla.; Gautier; and several other places, and the firefighters are always more than welcome to take a minute, shake a young admirer’s hand and show off that &uot;way-cool&uot; fire truck.

4Next-door-neighbors with an abundance of patience, a warm smile and, I must admit, a pretty good &uot;stomp&uot; when it comes to the stomp rocket. Bruce and Maxine Brice, well-known and loved among many in Natchez, have become adopted grandparents to us these days … a true blessing for me and two young boys I know. There’s something magical and almost reassuring about watching generations connect — whether it’s talking about airplanes or simply showing off that stomp rocket.

4The clerks at the B-KWIK, Grace Cleaners and Natchez Market, among dozens of others, who always seem to manage a smile and a kind word — even though they surely have bad days, too. One of the treasures of living in a community the size of Natchez is the familiar relationships that we cultivate with people — from clerks at the neighborhood store to favorite waitresses at local restaurants. Even the simplest &uot;how are you today?&uot; seems so genuine you feel as if you could actually sit down and answer that question … and they’d listen. Having grown up in the more populated — and less personal — Gulf Coast, presents a unique perspective for appreciating this &uot;small-town&uot; charm.

And, like many of you, my list could go on … and on. And, like many of you, I probably don’t stop often enough throughout the year to say &uot;thanks&uot; to — and for — those dozens of people who touch my life in little, but important, ways. It’s never too late to start.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3539 or via e-mail stacy.graning@natchezdemocrat.com.