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She may be far from home, but she's not alone

POSTED: September 5, 2010 1:00 a.m.

I answered the phone and she said the magic words, "Hey, Dad," which just melts me into this big tub of goo.

College was less than two weeks under way and my little girl was wondering if I might come to visit and, oh yeah, bring that old TV out of the garage.

"Why don't you come Sunday and we'll go to church?" she said.

When your child is almost 20 and calls and invites you to church, it is one of those warm fuzzy moments. So my wife and I loaded up bright and early Sunday and headed for Carrollton.

This is year two of her college life, and while it is less emotional than last year, it also marks the first time that my baby is living in an apartment.

I suffer from a delusional malady that stems from the fact that you've known this person since they emerged onto the planet. It's currently being played out on television in a car commercial, where the dad is sending his daughter off and sees her as a toddler.

I don't know that I see her as a toddler, but this is my little girl, who I have watched as she has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. I don't want anything to happen to her, but realize that the little bird is straying farther from the nest.

At church, somebody else saw this, too. A nice guy named Daniel Jackson, who just happens to be the president of the chamber of commerce in Carrollton, was watching from the choir loft. He came up to meet us after the service.

It seems Mr. Jackson has sent daughters off to college and knows what I'm feeling. He gave Ashton his card, complete with home phone number, and said to call if she needed help. The chamber of commerce president would know someone who could fix a flat tire. But as a daddy, he has compassion for another man's child and is willing to help.

It was one of those moments that make you feel really good. It also makes you realize that we don't have to be afraid of one another.

During my first years away from home, I was blessed with friends who looked out for me. I worked in the TV business, which means you worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had families who invited me to join their family celebration and it was wonderful.

All too often, I have opined that we are quickly losing the kind of neighborly compassion that I grew up with. My dad, who was a great cook, felt like folks who came to visit should be fed. He would whip up a meal at a moment's notice. He was just that kind of man.

There are gracious people who can't contain their kindness. It shows in everything they do. They are the ones who do good things without prompting.

One day, when my daughter is taking my future grandchild off to college, I am hopeful that there will be another Daniel Jackson of that era. But more than that, I hope that child has seen an example of neighborly goodness in her own mother.

Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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