Counting our many blessings in good times and bad
by Rebecca Johnston
November 23, 2013 11:55 PM | 2311 views | 0 0 comments | 304 304 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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A TV commercial from a few years ago sticks in my mind, where the little boy in the ad said “Things are looking up.”

It was the inflection he put on the words that told the story.

That reflects how I feel this holiday season when thinking about all the things we have to be thankful for this year — things are “looking up” in Cherokee County.

Slowly, the economy in the county appears to be thawing, with foreclosures finally down after the long, hard years of the Great Recession.

Homes are being built and new businesses are opening.

That means less families displaced and more who are able to put a bounteous meal on the table this Thanksgiving.

But there are many right here in our community who are still hurting. When I share the statistics that one-third of all children are living at or below the poverty level in Cherokee County schools, most people are shocked. That is thousands of children whose families face many financial struggles.

At Canton Elementary, 86 percent of students live in poverty, a figure that also surprises those who hear it.

But not those groups and organizations who help others in the community. Despite better economic times, the needs are still great, too great, and they are all too aware of the needs.

The Cherokee Department of Children and Family Services has more children than ever this year in foster care and who need a Secret Santa to help brighten their Christmas.

More than a 1,000 families are expected to be fed by MUST Ministries in Cherokee County this coming week, which adds up to more than 4,000 adults and children, an estimated 20 percent increase over last year’s program.

Almost everywhere you look in Cherokee County you see people collecting for MUST or other food programs, volunteering at events to ease the sadness and loneliness for those young and old who are struggling through things this holiday.

That is just the kind of place Cherokee County is.

When I was growing up in Canton, it seemed people lived a little closer to the land. More people grew their own food; people even bartered using their crops.

Now I am not saying my family did any of that, because we didn’t, at least not by the time I came along. We bought everything at the grocery store.

But still, it was a simpler time and there was a smaller gap between those who had enough and those who didn’t, and those who had were always willing to share with others who might need it.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1963 stands out as a graphic memory of a hard, hard time in our community when the Canton Cotton Mill was on strike, the weather was cold and people were on edge.

Many families were facing an especially tough holiday with no paychecks coming in and the need for fuel to keep homes warm great as temperatures plummeted.

We didn’t draw names at school for Christmas that year because that would have put too great a hardship on families already facing a difficult time. Every cent counted.

Back then the community came together, and where there are needs, this community continues today to have an outpouring of love and care for others.

I have to admit the new grocery store commercial for Thanksgiving where families are running around dropping dishes and having cooking disasters made me tear up a bit. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.

Because that minute’s worth of images captures a bit of what makes Thanksgiving so special.

This is a time when we give thanks for all we have, a time when people of all sorts of backgrounds, just like the Pilgrims and the native Americans of the first Thanksgiving, come together around the table and share with each other and celebrate.

Thanksgiving isn’t about life being perfect.

In some ways, memories of this time of year can even be painful.

Like so many people I have memories of Thanksgiving when my parents were alive, of the year we had just found out my dad had cancer, and the next year when he was not with us.

But the family times we had are so precious. I am so glad I can cherish those memories and sit down again this Thanksgiving with my family and friends.

The memories we make each year are like those images of the television commercial, when the cooks are getting up early to start cooking, chopping, stirring and mixing. When pots are boiling over and the stuffing is sticking and the turkey just won’t get done.

And then finally it all comes together, and everyone gathers around the table to pray and to enjoy the meal together and you know that it was all worth it.

And we bow our heads and give thanks.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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