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Nichols: Marking another year of joys, setbacks
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Looking back at the past year, I see that some good and some not so good events took place in my life.

On Black Friday I was part of the day that Lion’s Club members rang the bell for the Salvation Army collection in the Riverside Mall, near Belk’s. Although some people did drop in their change, most put in paper money contributions. Many of these persons gave the folded money to a child who pushed it down the slot in the top of the red bucket. These children were being trained to be generous at an early age, and that was very good.

Because of my bad knee which was replaced last July, I brought a chair to sit on because I could not stand for an entire hour. I was surprised that so many persons responded to my "Thanks for your gift. Have a Merry Christmas" with their "Thank you for being here helping Salvation Army." I will always look at the bell ringers for Salvation Army with new appreciation for their doing a job that is often thankless.

Our Lions Club supports glasses for people who need them but lack the funds to have eye exams. We also support a summer camp for kids with diabetes where all the campers have diabetes and have to take medicine regularly. Sometimes healthy kids make diabetes kids feel like they are strange, but not at Camp Kudzu.

Twice a year, we provide children’s theater shows open to the kids in our town. They especially enjoyed the recent puppet show. During the year, our club undertakes a variety of other projects to help the needy of our community.

I am a volunteer for Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center. I do jobs that require no brains, like preparing folders to be mailed or sharpening pencils. They even have a name for the jobs I do: "Tom Nichols type of no-brainer jobs." I just do the jobs left for me.

I belong to two support organizations, one for persons with Parkinson’s disease and the other for cancer survivors. The North Georgia Shakers have meetings twice a month at St. Paul United Methodist Church, and we share fellowship with each other facing the ups and downs of a progressive disease that so far has no known cure.

My other support group, for cancer, meets once a month at First Presbyterian. I am the different one, for I am in a watchful waiting regimen with no medication and no surgery. However, I enjoy the fellowship with those undergoing treatment now or in the past. I learn much at each meeting.

One of the highlights of the entire year came in early December. Jackie Meyers had invited me to show my video on China to students at Sardis Enrichment Elementary school. Some 50 or 60 kids sat relatively still on the floor of the library to watch my video. Afterward, they peppered me with sharp questions that made me glad to be a teacher who likes stirring up young minds.

In the future, these students will be competing with their counterparts in China. I hope my presentation stirred an interest in China that might help these students prepare a little better for that competition.

The two negatives for the year were that I had to withdraw from two organizations, the Believers Band and BULLI for seniors fun education, that I really enjoyed, but for health reasons I was forced to reduce my participation.

I had thought that after my knee replacement I would return to normal. The knee no longer hurts, but the muscles are very slow to heal. I sometimes think that I will never be fully active as I was a year ago. Time will tell.

I sit at this computer and my thoughts flow through my fingers to make words appear on the screen. I learned to touch type at Scott Field, Ill., when I entered the Army Air Corps in 1946. Playing the saxophone made command of my fingers easy to train. Now Parkinson’s sometimes makes my fingers punch the wrong keys. I hope spellchecker and my great editor at the Times find most mistakes.

I am grateful to The Times for publishing my commentary on life here.

Thanks to all who read these columns. I like writing. To me it is a continuation of teaching and it gives me something to do on days when I do not feel like facing the world in real life.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears regularly on Mondays and on

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