“Lucky for Me and for You,” column for May 21, 2013

I am lucky.

Randy says so.

Two months ago, when I left his house to fly back to mine after a long and happy visit, my 2-year-old grandson woke from his nap and asked his mother, “Where is Nana?”

“She’s gone home,” she said, “to her house to see Papa Mark.”

Randy likes me. A lot, I think. What’s not to like about nanas? But he really likes Papa Mark.

“She’s gonna see Papa Mark?” he said. “She’s so lucky!”

I am lucky for all sorts of reasons. Papa Mark is one of them. A big one. But there are others that I tend to forget.

Why is it that people who make the greatest difference in our lives are often the easiest to take for granted?

For the past six weeks, off and on, I’ve been on the road or in the air, in eight states and three time zones, rummaging through a suitcase for things I forgot to pack, and depending on the kindnesses of strangers.

In those weeks, I spoke at fundraisers in four cities: In Grand Island, Neb., at a state convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs; in Winston-Salem, N.C., for the Epilepsy Institute of North Carolina; in Evansville, Ind., for TOUCH, Inc.; and in Fort Smith, Ark., for the Fort Smith Public Library.

Also, at one point, I took a quick break to drive from South Carolina to Tennessee, with my sister and two cousins to visit Graceland in Memphis.

The weather was interesting, to say the least: Three inches of snow in Nebraska; heavy rain in the Carolinas; thunderstorms in Indiana and Arkansas; and, on a connecting flight in Dallas, a near miss with a tornado.

I crossed, or at least caught glimpses of some of my favorite rivers: The Platte, the Catawba, the French Broad, the Ohio, the Arkansas and the Mississippi.

I saw dogwoods and redbuds and sandhill cranes, rainbows and waterfalls, wildflowers and sunsets and a whole lot of green.

I spent hours making friends with strangers, shaking hands and signing books and hugging necks; swapping stories and laughs with desk clerks and housekeepers and restaurant servers. One evening, for some reason, I got nostalgic watching two little boys shoot hoops on a court outside my hotel.

I felt lucky to be every place I went, to see the things I saw and meet the people I met, especially those involved in great causes — as volunteers or staff or donors of time and money — making a difference in their communities and in the lives of their neighbors, making their world, and ours, a better place.

They’re the sort of people who bring to mind the quote generally credited to cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Because they usually prefer to work quietly offstage, seldom seeking the spotlight, it’s easy to take them, and the work they do, for granted. But can you imagine where we’d be, what we would do, without them?

One of the things I love about my job is it lets me hear almost every day from people who care deeply about their families and friends, their neighbors and their communities.

It allows me to visit small towns, like the one where I grew up, and big cities like the one I now call home, to see firsthand all the extraordinary good being done by ordinary good people.

It keeps me hopeful and makes it hard to ever even think about being cynical.

Best of all, most of the time — as much as I love getting to visit those places and meet all those wonderful people — I get to work at home in my pajamas.

Randy is right.

I am lucky.

And so, I suspect, are you.


  1. Doney Wallace says

    I enjoyed your article on what kids need to go to school. I think that No. 3 should be No.1 I enjoy reading your column each Sunday.

  2. June L Palmer says

    I am truly blessed. My husband, Jim, died on the day of our 56th anniversary. He was in the Air Force when we married and we spent three years in Spain. That was during the reign of Generalissimo Franco, a rather harsh dictator. Conditions were very primitive in Spain at the time. Cannot take this time to bother you with all this. Thank you for your column. I enjoy reading your work.

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