1)Susan Hemp- I met Susan in Brunswick, when I first went to Job Corps in early November 1982. My 18th birthday was on the 24th, and it was the first time I had ever been away from home. I felt alone, and I hadn't been there long enough to be granted leave off base yet. When I woke up the morning of my birthday in a pretty much empty dorm room, I felt something on top of the cover on my feet. The covers were tucked in tight because of the hospital corner enforced regulations. But, I raised up to see a stuffed dog laying there on my feet. It was a birthday gift from Susan. I can't describe how this made me feel, so far from family and home for the first time in my life, to have someone notice my birthday. I named the dog Hershel, and yes, I still have him sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom to remind me of love that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I lost contact with Susan after Job Corps, though I know she was from Kentucky and training to be a hospital lab/tech. Thanks Susan for this life-long memory, wherever you are...
2)Susan Clark- Some friendships that start quickly like that one, come to stay. Susan Clark, you are such a friend. I met you right away in the McDonnough Church and we became friends instantly. I can't lose you no matter where I go. When you were my houseguest last, New Years 2009, you gave me this large and lovely framed art piece that is still hanging in my living room. But, the real gift is your undying friendship. Yes, you texted me while I was in the middle of typing this blog tonight. Thanks for all the gifts you have given me over the years.
3)Glenda Welch- Mamma you gave me this prized doll collection. I guess I am getting soft in my forties, and I am sure you noticed I couldn't keep my eyes off of them for the past couple of years. I will treasure them forever knowing they were a gift from you. Thanks for giving me this part of your memories, Mamma.
4)Dawn Hunt- Dawn, I love the Wedding photo Book you gave me from our Wedding. It means so much to have the pictures. I appreciate you doing that for me. Thanks! You are an excellent photographer! I am proud to be a part of the family.
5)Diane Davis- Diane, you have given me much over the years I have known and worked with you. But the pouch covers you sewed me were the most treasured of all. I am glad I don't need them anymore, but I still have them for the memory of how your friendship got me through three of the toughest months of my life. Thanks Diane!
6)Celeste Parker- One year I pulled my mail out of my box at work early in the morning and found a lovely large Cross with the words to the Prayer of Saint Francis at Christmas time Celeste. I hang it on my Christmas tree every year. It says, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.~ Thanks, Celeste.
7)Matt Mitchell- Matthew, I will never forget the year in Thomson that you gave me the Mother's Day Tape. You were only in Fifth Grade. But, you took a cassette tape and recorded over it, telling me in so many words Happy Mothers day and that you loved me. It was sweet, because you had to fill the tape, and you just kept talking and coming up with more ways to say it. Then you took a sharpie and marked out the original title, and wrote "Mom" on it. Yes, I still have that and I still cry everytime I listen. But, that is not as treasured as "the note." I found the note rolled up like a little football, tucked inside the tray in my desk drawer the year you were in sixth grade at the same school I taught . That note laid in that tray for 12 more years, and now it is still in the tray packed away carefully. You said simply, "I love you Ms. Mitchell" for no reason at all. Thanks for all the gifts you gave me over the years son.
8)Ryan Morrell- I still have the shadow box you gave me Ryan. You drew a picture of me hugging you and Shelby inside, in 2nd grade, and wrote that you loved me. You gave it to me for no reason at all and I will always treasure it. Thanks for thinking of me Ryan. You are a special person.
9)Travis Mitchell- You've given me coffee mugs (including the huge, Big Boss mug,) a Soup Cup, a necklace, lapel pins, a punch bowl, various kitchen utensils, and the two wolfies :) But, more prized than any of those gifts is the birthday card with the big red rose colored on it that I found propped up on the coffee table when I woke up on the morning of my fortieth birthday, when you were 13. You always have known me well. Your gift that day is treasured above anything else you could have given. Thanks for that rose card son. And, thanks for always being there for me.
10)Larry Hunt- You have given me more gifts than anyone else I have ever known in the last two years. I couldn't list them all here, the laptop, camera, wrap, various clothing, among other things. But, my favorite is the tall Lighthouse Candle you bought me when we sat in the little shop on River Street in Savannah, on our 1st Anniversary, drinking coffee. It is so pretty, and it reminds me of how we found each other in this life. A lighthouse is a beacon of light, just like your love. Thanks for the lighthouse Sweetie!
As you can see, the real gifts that I have been given are friendships. James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights..." That is the case with friends, as well. Friends come from God, because God is good and God is love. I am thankful to have been blessed with many good friends over the years. Remember to count your friends when you count your blessings this Thanks Giving. Tomorrow night, look for ten of the people who have influenced my faith in God.