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Dixie Diva
Giving thanks and paying it forward
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This isn’t really a Thanksgiving column. It’s more of a Christmas column. Well, actually, it is a Thanksgiving column, because it’s about being thankful enough for your blessings that you share them at Christmas.

I thought I’d share these thoughts early enough that you could put them into practice over the next month if you would like. Over the last six months, three of my favorite people have left this earth to step into the presence of the Lord. Their absences mean that I’m going to be losing two favorite holiday traditions.

After Mr. Bobo’s wife died, he went for eight years without a Christmas tree. He didn’t think he missed it, until the day I showed up on his doorstep with a tree, lights, decorations, and a treetop angel. Tears ran down his cheeks when the tree was set up and lighted.

“How do I get this angel to stop blinking?” I mumbled to myself as I read the instructions but still couldn’t figure it out. A little of a blinking angel goes a long way, and it was making me nervous.

 “I love that it blinks!” he exclaimed. “It is the most beautiful angel that I have had to privilege to view. I believe I shall name her ‘Ronda’ for the angel who has brought this beautiful tree.”

The next day, he called. “I sat here late into the night and watched this wonderful tree and angel. It has brought me such joy. Words can never express how indebted I am to you for this gift.”

I bought him a remote so he could easily turn on and off the lights. For four years, it was the happiest gift I gave — a decorated Christmas tree to a man lonely for his departed wife and living in a retirement community. Every year, he would call several times to tell me how much enjoyment the tree brought him. He would insist that friends come to see it.

I shall miss terribly putting up that tree for my dear Mr. Bobo because it gave me joy to repay a similar kindness. Many years ago, I was facing a lonely Christmas, too, and, disheartened, I wasn’t planning on having a tree. My sweet friend, Reid, showed up at the door with a big, freshly cut pine and set it up. It was the most cherished tree of my life so giving one to Mr. Bobo was simply paying forward the kindness that Reid gave me.

My dear friends, Guy and Pinky, are gone, too, this Christmas. For the past few years, they had been growing wearier and feebler. While Pinky gave me a subscription to Southern Living every year, I had given her casseroles and desserts so that when she hosted her precious family — her happiest tradition — she would not have to worry so much about cooking. It meant more to her than any jewel or book I could have given.

Every year, the readers of my weekly newsletter submit names of those who are elderly, lonely or shut-in and would appreciate receiving a card in the mail. I post the list, then readers select names and mail a card to cheer someone’s day. Some even take the time to mail a card of cheer and encouragement to every person on the list. It is humbling and heart-warming to learn how many days are cheered by our annual Christmas card list.

As you reflect on your many blessings and celebrate them for Thanksgiving, please think of how you can share those blessings during Christmas. A card, a casserole or a Christmas tree could be the most important gift you give. I guess what it boils down to is this: A merry Christmas starts with a happy, blessed Thanksgiving. This year, let us all not just give thanks for our blessings; let’s share our blessings with others during the Christmas season.

Ronda Rich is the author of the best-selling There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at