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LEW GILLILAND: Taking stock for my 50th Thanksgiving (column)

About a month ago, out of the blue, I got a call from Brenda, one of the attendants at the laundromat where I take my clothes to be cleaned.

Seems Brenda and some of her co-workers had noticed I hadn’t been by in a couple of weeks, and knowing I don’t have any family in the area, decided they wanted to check to make sure I was OK, thus Brenda’s phone call. I explained to Brenda that I had gone to visit family the previous weekend and gotten my laundry done while on the trip.

Despite that, I told Brenda I was grateful for the phone call. It was nice to know somebody was looking out for me, that somebody cared enough to pick up the phone and check to make sure I was OK. 

I turned 50 in January, so Thursday will make a half century of Thanksgivings for me. I’ll be away from my family this Thanksgiving, a fact that had me feeling a little blue when I stopped to think about it this past weekend, but those feelings quickly changed when I began to consider all the things I have to be thankful for.

At 50, I still have both my parents, which I know isn’t true for everybody my age. They are both still in good health and are still a rock in my life. They have been my biggest cheerleaders for half a century, encouraging me through good times and bad, even when those bad times were created by my own mistakes. Mom and Dad, I love you. 

One of the greatest things I can say about my parents is they raised three children who are all college graduates. Both my brother and sister have wonderful spouses, and I’m blessed that they and my five nieces and nephews have a presence in my life, even if I don’t get to see them often and we do most of our communication by Facebook. The price of distance and busy lives. 

I’ve learned, and I bet many of you have, too, that as we go from season to season, some people come into our lives while others exit, the result of the transition from college to the working world or a change of residency brought on by a new job, etc. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll develop a handful of good friends who will remain close to you throughout life’s journey. That’s been the case for me, whether it’s my buddy Randy Doyle, an attorney in Wisconsin who I’ve known since junior high school, college friends such as Jennifer and Rob Giffin and Lee Wright, or friends I’ve met through my profession, such as Chris Long and Shannon J. Allen. I love them all and consider them a part of my extended family.

I’m thankful for grocery stores. I spent 10 years in high school and college working in the grocery business. Those years were so valuable. I learned how to be a good employee, learned how to deal with a boss, learned how to deal with customers. My store manager, David Leatherwood, is still on the job today in Hixson, Tennessee, still hiring young people and giving them a chance to learn and grow. He is a legend. 

I’m thankful for journalism and the newspaper business. I was a junior in college when I decided to give journalism a try, even though I’ve often joked that I probably wasn’t quite sure what journalism was at the time. It took less than a week volunteering at my college paper to figure out I had found what I wanted to do with my life. I was hooked and still am. I still get a thrill seeing my name in print, although being in management means it doesn’t happen as nearly as often as it used to.

I’m thankful to have been born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I spent the first 30 years of my life, got my education, got my first job, launched my career. Chattanooga is progressive city that has made many wonderful strides in my lifetime. I’m proud of my hometown. 

I am thankful to have spent 15 years living and working in Fort Payne and DeKalb County, Alabama, serving as sports editor and managing editor of the daily paper there. I hit my stride as a journalist there, and when I left town, I did so with more wonderful memories than I can count. I also made many friends and think about them often.

And while I will always carry pieces of Chattanooga and DeKalb County with me in my heart, I’m grateful to have called Talladega and the Talladega County area home since 2014. I’ll be forever grateful to Jimmy Creed, my first boss here, who pulled me out of the unemployment line, and my current boss, Anthony Cook, from whom I’ve learned much. 

I’m thankful to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and to know that He loves me, even when I stray. 

And I’m thankful for the people who dot my life and add to it by their steady presence in my routine, people like Brenda, Rhonda and Kathy at the laundromat. That phone call from Brenda may seem like a little thing, but it was a big reminder that as I reach Thanksgiving No. 50, I have much to be thankful for. 

Here’s wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Lew Gilliland is managing editor of The Daily Home. Reach him at