One of the ways, perhaps the best way, to show that you are really thankful for all that you have been given is to give some of it back! Don’t just give thanks, give back some of what you were given! Some of us are fortunate enough to receive more than just the “Give us this day our daily bread” that we hope and pray and work for. Yep, some of us get more “bread” than we need and when that happens we should give it back, but we can’t just mark it “return to sender” and then be done with it! It’s not that simple. No, when you’ve got more than you want or need, you have to find out who really needs it and then you have to make the actual effort of giving. It’s not always convenient or easy but it’s almost always more important than you might think it is.

John and Roberta Lacefield have always been givers here in White Springs, involved in the community in many ways, building and teaching and nurturing their community, but their giving also reaches beyond White Springs. They believe in helping their neighbor and not just their White Springs neighbors but also their United States neighbors. Extending their helping hands, in February John and Roberta are traveling to Puerto Rico for two weeks to help repair homes damaged by hurricanes from 2017!! Can you believe it was that long ago, and that our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico are still struggling? John and Roberta are going to show their Thanks“giving” by giving and they would love to have a White Springs team in Puerto Rico! Anyone who would like to join them on this adventure is encouraged to volunteer with https://www.allhandsandhearts.org/programs/puerto-rico-hurricane-relief/. And, for anyone who would like to help out but can't spend the money/time to travel to Puerto Rico, a donation given at the same website would be a great way to show support to our fellow AMERICAN Puerto Ricans.

Roberta says, “John and I have both felt the pull to make ourselves useful and to do good. This just feels like the right response to all that is going on in our country now. We encourage everyone in our community to respond to the negativity around us with their own bit of love...this is just one way to do that.”

I am thankful for John and Roberta and for all the many similar Thanks“Giving” people in and around White Springs, and on this Thanksgiving Day, with some repetition from the past, because many blessings can be constant, and with some new thankful observations, because new blessings come each year, I offer a column on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day! Sometimes it is so repetitious and unchanging that it seems almost ordinary, and perhaps it is, but it’s the kind of “ordinary” we are grateful for! As I have often said, if I could go back in time and visit one day from each year of my life, I would pick Thanksgiving for most visits, with Christmas coming in a close second. These are days of family, friends, reverence, thanksgiving, joy, generosity, forgiveness and acceptance, and those ingredients are the recipe for a very good day, any day of the year! For many of us, Thanksgiving is our once a year reunion. Many families now live in many different parts of the country and our lives are evolving at a sometimes dizzying pace. But each year at Thanksgiving we try to converge back to the center of what ‘family’ means to us. We follow the same script each year, and on that day there are certain constants that I love. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is on the TV and the kitchen is bustling with food preparation. The menu seldom varies, with everyone preparing and bringing the same dishes year after year. Before we eat, we gather and tell all the same old stories, maybe with one or two new ones thrown in — if they are worthy of inclusion! And at the table, we have a strong sense of what a special moment we are sharing, and we are thankful, truly and sincerely thankful. Yes, many things might change over the years as families grow and relocate, but we all stubbornly cling to the unchanging core of what Thanksgiving is all about. Why this love of such a fixed routine? I think it’s because this routine is how we express that our love for each other has not changed, and also how we assure each other that it will not change.

Beyond family, Thanksgiving in the White Springs area affords us a time to reflect on the many other things and people that we should be thankful for. Think of a moment in your life when time seemed to stand still and you realized you were in a rare moment of wonder and beauty. Think about the special people that have made a positive difference in your life. As someone who has done a fair amount of traveling, lived in three countries and six different states, I can assure you that many of our blessings, both in people and in things, are unique to our area. Unfortunately, as time goes by, we often take these gifts for granted, but on this day we should pause and reflect on how special our White Springs blessings are. I mean really, how many other towns have a carillon tower to be thankful for!!?

Another of our special blessings here in “old” White Springs is that we are not “Brand New.” We have a lot of multi-generational families who offer us a link to the past, to stories, traditions and a culture that is timeless. I’m not one of those wonderful folks who have lived in White Springs here all their lives but, as I often remind them, I do envy them, and “I got here just as fast as I could!” I’m also very thankful for all the “newcomers” that have contributed so much time and effort to White Springs' community life. An attachment to the old ways of the old days is not healthy if it rejects or punishes thoughtful, hardworking newcomers with new ideas. We can do better than that.

Here are but some of the things I am thankful for…Our rich history and our historic district, with buildings like the somewhat sad, but still grand Telford Hotel, the Sophie Jane Adams house, the Adams Brothers store, and the Camp House with its adjoining tiny school house, now located next to the library. What treasures!...The Spring and the remnants of the old spring house. This was the Genesis of White Springs and of Florida tourism. I’m thankful for the Suwannee River. One look at most other rivers shows how they have been over-developed and polluted. One look at our Suwannee shows what they lost and what we still have to be thankful for…The Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center, one of the State Park system’s crown jewels…Our many area churches. God’s grace is most often made evident through people that are spiritually nourished, and our White Springs churches nourish us, assure us, comfort us and give us spiritual food for thought.

It is wonderful that we are blessed with such an abundance of art and music in our little town. The burgeoning trail of quilt art as our part of the Florida Quilt Trail, The Florida Folk Festival, the upcoming Festival of Lights and the many other events that take place at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, and our local church choirs that demonstrate true homegrown passion and power of a “joyful noise”! As Lewis Thomas said, “We are a spectacular manifestation of life. We have language…we have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a ‘common goal’ of nature as I can guess at. And finally, and perhaps best of all, we have music.” Happy Thanksgiving White Springs!

Thanksgiving also heralds the start of the Christmas season and Christmas Shopping. You’ve got more local options to do your shopping in White Springs than you realize. Roosters Outfitters Bait and Tackle Shop has gifts for the fishing fanatics and American Canoe Adventures has a nice selection of gifts too. If you wander over to Thelma Boltin’s Gift shop in Stephen Foster State Park you’ll find an amazing variety of wonderful Florida gifts. Shop local! You’ll save the time and gas that it takes to drive all over creation. Everything from quality hand crafted gifts to affordable toys is available right here in White Springs, and you will feel good that you helping to keep open the doors of our local businesses and artists.

We should be thankful that we have a lot of visitors come to White Springs. Do you ever wonder why, and where they come from? The “why” should be easy to answer. We have a lot to offer the visitor. Where are they from? All over! If you are a business in White Springs, what are you doing to tap into this steady stream of visitors? If you’re not doing anything, you’re ignoring a valuable resource that you should be thankful for. I’ll be thankful when this resource of visitors is more appreciated.

After Thanksgiving, do you want an extra dose of the Christmas Spirit? Join us at the White Springs Library on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 p.m. for a live performance of "A Christmas Carol" by local actor John H. Bell. This hour-long holiday experience will get you in the Christmas Spirit. The event is free and everyone is welcome. For more information call the White Springs Library at 386-397-1389.

The White Springs / Stephen Foster Festival of Lights is back! Starting with the White Springs Christmas Parade on Friday, Dec. 6, at 5 p.m., the park will be lit by hundreds of thousands of lights, and there will be decorations, music and much more. For Friday only, donations of canned goods and small toys to be distributed to needy families will be accepted as admission for the program.

This is worth a trip to Dowling Park! On Thursday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m., the Children's Handbell Choir will present their Christmas Concert. Join us at the Jo Kennon Library to hear the eleven children in the choir chime Christmas songs. After the concert, cookies and punch will be served.

Saving the best for last! White Springs' own Earnestine Johnson celebrated her 76th birthday on Saturday, Nov. 23, at a dinner party hosted by her three daughters at the home of daughter Jackie Williams. With her daughters Jackie, Vickie and Rhonda, 11 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren in attendance along with many friends and relatives, Miss Earnestine enjoyed re-living good memories and making new ones. The guest of honor and her many "girl-friends," enjoyed a feast from the sea, as well as a land-based dinner option. With music, story-telling, laughter, and "watching the grands," a good time was had by all. Many happy returns, Miss Earnestine!

Well, once again, “thankfully”, I’ve said enough, perhaps more than enough! But, as always, I do want to remind you that if you have news you want to share, you should let “Life in White Springs” help. We’re always glad to hear about goings on in the community and will be glad to share anything that is appropriate for this column. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. As always, I look forward to seeing you out and about, finding opportunities and enjoying your community and your life in White Springs.

Walter McKenzie

386-303-1394

lifeinwhitesprings@gmail.com

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