I’ll have to admit, I’ve had about all of 2020 I can stand. This year has been a real bummer! I won’t list all the awfulness of 2020 because that would be a bore. You’ve heard it too many times already. And, anyway, this is the time of year that we set aside for giving thanks, not belly aching. So that’s what I’m going to do – be thankful that is. I invite you to do the same. Here we go. This year I am thankful for:
• heroic ICU workers at UAB who have worked around the clock to keep my wife’s father, Gene Hanson, alive while he has been on a ventilator fighting COVID.
• kind ICU workers at St. Vincent’s East who loved and comforted my wife’s brother, Frank Hanson, while he was dying from COVID and we couldn’t be with him.
• Bill Barnett, Oscar Bothwell, Dr. Sahawneh and others who were taken from us too soon by this terrible virus. Each impacted our community in countless positive ways.
• scientists who are working diligently to develop a vaccine to free us from this pandemic.
• government and public health officials who are tasked with managing the response to this deadly contagion.
• the grocery clerk who risks her life so that my wife and I can buy food and cleaning supplies.
• all the people in the supply chain who keep food on my table – the growers and pickers and processors and truckers.
• all the local small business owners who are doing their best just to survive.
• all the teachers and other school workers who somehow, some way are managing to educate and feed and care for our children despite the challenges and dangers.
• my pharmacist who never lets me run out of insulin.
• pole climbers who restored our electricity and cable after the Easter storms. And all the volunteers with chainsaws.
• meteorologists who warned us several times this year of approaching tornadoes and hurricanes.
• Blount County DHR workers who respond to reports of child abuse, going into homes even at the risk of their own health.
• our Children’s Center staff who continue to care for hurting children despite whatever 2020 throws at us.
• all the kind people who have given generously to the Children’s Center to help us through a very difficult financial season.
• and all of you who have told me that you are lifting us up in prayer.
I could go on and on but I’m running out of space. So, I will close by thanking God for giving me the opportunity to serve the children of Blount County. I count myself as “truly blessed.” Happy Thanksgiving!
Jim Ed Clayton, Director
Blount County Children’s Center
Yes, there have been many times that 2020 felt like one dumpster fire after another; but there have been a few positive things that have happened this year. The one that I am most thankful for is that we all have been given permission to, and often forced to, re-evaluate almost every aspect of our lives.
We are usually so busy that we don’t have time to step back and ask ourselves if there is a different or better way to do something or if it really needs doing in the first place. Change can be scary and stressful so it is very easy to stick with the status quo. This year, the status quo was not an option. We looked at both our personal and our work lives with different eyes. We got creative… really, really creative.
We re-booted our priorities, jettisoned the non-essentials, and somehow figured out how to reinvent those things that were most important to us. I think our post-COVID future will be a blend of what we loved most from the past and the best of our 2020 innovations. Personally, I don’t want to get “back to normal.” I am looking forward to getting to a place that is so much better than “normal!”
-Barbara Andersen, Executive Director
Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” – Gandolf from The Hobbit
Thanksgiving will look different this year. I’m going to miss spending the day with some very special people in what would have been our third Community Thanksgiving Lunch. We’ve served a lot of meals and we’ve made many new friends. There’s been laughter and tears as we fellowship and enjoy our Thanksgiving feast together.
Even though I don’t get to celebrate the way that I’d like this year, it doesn’t mean I’m less thankful. I am always thankful for my boys and for my family, but the routines of life often left little time for family. Amid the chaos of 2020, we were given the gift of time. Time together with no distractions and nowhere to be. We goofed off. We laughed a lot. We stayed up late. We talked a lot. And in all those moments, we made memories that will last a lifetime. For that gift of uninterrupted time, I am thankful.
As I’ve been reflecting on thanksgiving and blessings over these last few weeks, though, I’m just simply thankful for kind people. Those people that go out of their way to do something nice for someone just because they can. Those people who spread joy through their random acts of kindness is something this world definitely needs more of.
I am thankful for a special little lady who has a huge heart. As many adults resorted to insults, bullying, and online tantrums acting like children who didn’t get their way, here is this 11-year-old who believed in her heart that she could make the world around her a better place by simply being kind.
Mother Teresa once said, “We can do small things with great love.” Through one random act of kindness at a time, that’s exactly what Reagan Phelps has done. She’s making a difference in the lives of those around her while inspiring others to do the same. Whether it’s spending a little “girl time” with her younger sister, picking flowers for a neighbor, writing letters to those in nursing homes, or whatever else might make someone’s day just a little bit better, Reagan’s kindness has been a light amongst so much darkness. She’s brightened many days throughout this pandemic. And she’s certainly brightened mine over the years.
I am grateful that I’ve gotten to watch her grow into the compassionate and kind soul she is. The world could learn a lot from this 11-year-old. “Kindness is making others smile through the little things,” she said one day. “I have learned that spreading kindness makes me a happier person.” Reagan, you make all those around you happier people and you inspire us all to be better people. I am thankful for Reagan and for the gift of kindness that she so freely shares.
Aimee Wilson, Owner/Editor
The Blount Countian
I am so grateful this year for the Holy Spirit leading and guiding me through all the concerns of the virus and times of shut in. I have been blessed with a caring family, and, in spite of some ailments, we are still well and able to attend our church by being careful. Being separated from friends and activities has been difficult, but having more time to read and study the Word, I know we can trust the Lord for better things ahead. Each day is a gift.
“Thanksgiving day is a jewel to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day and leave out the gratitude.”
I am thankful for Meme and Daddo. I am thankful for my bother, most of the time. I am thankful for the church we go to. I am thankful for the food we have to eat. I am thankful for my mom, my uncles and aunts, and my cousins. I am thankful for the animals that I get to play with and take care of.
Sydney Stewart, age 13
I am thankful for Jesus; he has saved me and my family. I am thankful for my Mom, Dad, and my brother, Jacob. I am thankful for my friend, John David, and my friends at school and church. I am thankful to be here in the United States. I am thankful for all.
William Pantoja, age 12
I’m thankful for God and everybody.
Timothy Camarillo, age 6
I am thankful for mommy, daddy, my church, and ice cream.
Ava Cantrell, age 6
I am grateful to be alive to see all of my family and friends happy, healthy, and productive in spite of this virus. I am grateful for the promise and possibility of an America with justice and equality for all people.
On March 7, 2020, I was having a stroke just when the coronavirus was hitting Alabama. My husband carried me to St. Vincent’s Blount. After a few tests, they shipped me to St. Vincent’s Birmingham. The doctor said I needed surgery; I had at least 50 percent blockage in my right carotid artery in my neck. The next day they went in and took it apart like a bicycle tire, cleaned it out, and put me back together. The artery was more than 70 percent blocked. I was in ICU for one night. The next morning I came home from the hospital. I got word that there was a mask shortage. I gave myself two days to rest up, then I started sewing masks with the Blount County mask makers. I made over 1,000 masks as I healed from surgery. I am a two-time cancer survivor. I am very thankful that God has equipped me to face each battle and turn it into His glory. I am very thankful to still be here and making a difference.
No matter the headlines, we can always count on time in nature to comfort and heal. The lake in particular offers peace, and it’s been great to share our county’s wild spaces with loved ones. Experiencing this year’s seasons has reminded us that change is natural, normal, essential – while at the same time, the reliability of the sun, birds, and other wildlife has filled us with hope, even on our most hopeless days.
Irene and Paul Latham