As we sit down to our annual Thanksgiving feast, we here at The Times would like to go around the table and offer a few morsels of gratitude before we pick up our forks and dig in.
Even in a year that has endured its share of challenges and difficulties — from incidents of violence against innocent civilians and police officers, to civil unrest, to drought and wildfires, to an election divide that never seems to heal — we can put it all into perspective when it’s time to gather and count our blessings rather than our sorrows.
So as we do each Thanksgiving, the newsroom staff would like to offer our personal thanks for the bounty of our lives, which includes ...
• A fresh start, amazing new experiences and many new friends.
• The homeless in Gainesville who have taught us what compassion, gratitude and service to others really means.
• Friends who know exactly how to make you laugh no matter how tired, frustrated or heartbroken you are.
• Those rain clouds we see on the horizon coming to end our drought. At least, we hope they’re clouds and not more smoke.
• On that subject, we appreciate the bravery of the firefighters battling the wildfires in the North Georgia mountains. Most of us can’t imagine going to work in the morning and facing such danger, and we’re grateful they do.
• My new heating and air-conditioning unit installed last month. After two consecutive breakdowns this summer, it’s nice to know my home will be roasty-toasty warm this winter.
• The mysterious angels who fill the candy jar every so often with treats that remind us of the joys of childhood, or just give us a sugar rush to get through the rest of the workday.
• Grandparents and their quirky ways of letting us know just how much we are loved no matter how much grief we gave them while growing up.
• Every day I get through without being sick or in pain. And for a very patient spouse.
• Southern cornbread dressing — not stuffing, not made with oysters and not out of a box, but the real item. How do we make it through the rest of the year without this stuff?
• The people who encourage us to do things outside of our comfort zones, push the limits and teach us what life is all about.
• My first car, Neo, who got me through 225,000 miles of adventures before choking and dying on the side of Interstate 985; the passer-by and sheriff deputy who stopped to make sure I was OK; and the people who rescued me from the side of the road and ensured I had reliable transportation until I found a more permanent replacement for poor Neo.
• Alabama football. Roll Tide, Roll.
• My new wife, our daughter on the way and our first Christmas tree.
• Nate’s Country Kitchen, serving fresh food and Southern hospitality in our newsroom five days a week.
• All the years I got to eat my Granny’s duck dressing. And that I still get to eat my Mama’s deviled eggs.
• That Negan didn’t “Lucille” Daryl on “The Walking Dead.”
• A baby’s wide smile, with just two teeth showing, that can always light up my day. And his brother’s face whenever he’s “(ex)cited!”
• Opportunities this year to travel, to learn and to grow.
• The curly, smoosh-able face of my dog that is always excited to see me after a long day.
• Fresh repairs and upgrades to our bridges and roads, even if it means we have to endure horrific traffic while the work is being done.
• Everyone who has worn and still wears the uniform of our country to keep us safe and strong. We wouldn’t be here without them.
• The music of the many gifted artists who have passed in the last year, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Prince and Leonard Cohen among them. As long as we have CDs, vinyl albums and YouTube, they’ll always be with us.
• The amazing and delightful Lessie Smithgall. Since founding our humble little newspaper with husband Charles 70 years ago this January, she has enriched the Gainesville community with her gifts, her support and her sassy sense of humor over her 105 years. We’re proud her portrait now hangs in our main conference room named on her behalf.
And most of all, we’re thankful for our loyal readers, our news sources and all who allow us to nose our way into their lives, teach us something new every day and make working long days and late nights worthwhile. We couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do it without your support. We wish a happy Thanksgiving to all.
Amen. Now please pass the dressing ... the good kind.