Former Chattanooga Times publisher Paul Neely visited me in 1994 and asked me to write this column. I said, "I will try it for six months. If I like it and you like me, I will continue."
I have loved it. It keeps me in touch with the people the way being county executive did. The feedback, good and bad, and the sharing it stimulates keep me feeling alive and a part of the life of this great community.
That's not to say it is easy. As one reader said, "The best writing is bleeding on paper." I think she meant the times we pour out our very soul in our writings. For me, one of my hardest times is when I bleed before getting anything on paper. Times when I am dry and idea-less.
Fortunately, such times are rare. When they come, something or somebody pops into my life and strikes a match to my little dry wick. Today it was Linda Gant.
Linda broke my negative mood when she told me her father-in-law was the late and great Grady Gant. Lord, how I loved Grady Gant! He was one of the best and funniest persons I have ever known. He was an incurable people builder-upper.
I remembered when he was president of a state personnel association and invited me to perform at their state meeting at the Read House. After I parked on Broad Street, I was walking along giving my guitar a final tuning. Thinking no one could hear me, I broke into a verse of "Nine Pound Hammer." I had no idea Grady was standing in the shadows and heard it all.
When he introduced me to his group, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Chattanooga is one of the few places in the world where the county executive walks the streets singing for the home folks and visitors."
Linda went on to say she always read and appreciated my columns and had just read "Long John Cardinal," a compilation of 52 of my columns that readers voted to be my best.
As she talked to me, my inner Phoenix started rising from the dust. Then she said, "For years I have thought of calling or writing you, but this morning something told me to do it right now. So here I am." At that instant, I got my idea for today's column: thanking those persons who are making contributions to our lives.
How easy it is to just slide and glide through our days absorbed in our daily rituals and personal situations and ignore those little divine tuggings to stop and thank someone.
I wonder how many of those who will commit suicide today would be able to go on if someone called and praised them for something. I wonder how many would be able to break the grip of depression if they knew someone loved them and appreciated their services to this world.
As soon as Linda hung up, I started working on my list of people to thank. My longest list so far is "people I have never thanked." Then I want to thank those who are continuously thoughtful and helpful.
What a good day I am going to have, thanks to Linda.