My family did something the other day that we haven't done in years: We took a group photo for a Christmas card.
Now, I know, lots of people do that every year as a matter of routine. But we've never been that organized. In fact, the last time we managed to take the photo and make the cards, we never got around to actually mailing any of them.
This year was different. My wife and I managed to not only get in the photo without blinking at the flash, but we were able to pose all three daughters in it at the same time. And as a bonus, we also managed to herd all four dogs and both cats in front of the camera for several takes.
Every time I see the resulting photos, I'm immediately reminded of how tremendously blessed we are. And I work in a business where such blessings are constantly put into stark contrast.
For example, it's hard to find a sadder story than the one we heard last week of the Grovetown woman who took her own life in the parking lot of the Gateway Walmart.
Coroner Vernon Collins says the 51-year-old was depressed because she was stuck in a low-wage job in an assisted living home, performing the type of work that can emotionally humble even the happiest person.
She also was troubled that she lived with her mother, Collins said. It doesn't appear there's anything bad about her mom, but at age 51, clearly the woman had different expectations for where she'd be in life at this stage - and it didn't include living at home with her mother.
Sometime around 9 p.m. last Monday, then, she apparently decided to bring that life to a dead end - literally.
The woman parked her Ford pickup in a remote part of the Walmart parking lot, signed over the title for her vehicle to her mother, penned a suicide note, and shot herself in the head.
It wasn't for nearly three days that anyone thought to even take a look in the truck. A soldier from Fort Gordon happened to walked over to the vehicle to peek inside, and found the woman dead.
A life of disappointment and personal struggle followed by abject surrender and lonely death: How unspeakably sad.
We should all count our blessings, whether we get a family photo or just manage to struggle to keep a family together. While you're doing so, keep this woman's mother in your prayers; somehow, I can't imagine a sadder, lonelier Christmas.
On a much happier note, the folks at Child Enrichment are thrilled to have won a $1,529 contribution in a contest from Path2College.
The amount of the prize is designed to call attention to Georgia's 529 college savings plan, and the contest was created to help draw attention to a handful of charities who competed for online votes to win the prize.
Child Enrichment managed to network to its advantage and grabbed the top spot. And, of course, the cash.
"We are amazed and happy that we won, and while the money is great, the exposure has been fantastic," says Dan Hillman, executive director of Child Enrichment.
"This promotion gave us an interesting way to communicate with people (who) now know something about Child Enrichment's work with abandoned, abused, neglected and sexually abused children," Hillman added.
Hopefully it also drew attention to the 529 college savings plans, which should become more important than ever now that Georgia's HOPE scholarship is threatened with cutbacks.
Many of the state's parents have been spoiled by HOPE and lulled into thinking they won't need savings for college as long as their kid's grades are high enough. That's going to have to change or a lot of them won't be able to afford tuition. For example, state officials have already cut book funding in half, and will eliminate it next year. More cuts are coming.
Congratulations to Child Enrichment. And to any parent smart enough to save for their child's education.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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