The holiday will have passed by the time this gets into the paper. But right now it is Monday night, Nov. 23, about 9 p.m., and I am in my office putting out fires, catching up on stuff and thinking. It has been a long day, long prior week and long month.
Local elections and runoffs are in process. Those always seem to bring out the worst in many. This season seems even a bit more dysfunctional and bizarre than usual – even for North Fulton’s election dynamic. Friday, a strange and troubled man walked into my office and demanded to know why we didn’t report that the mayor of Alpharetta had decided to become the mayor of Milton and that Johns Creek’s mayor was not really who I thought he was. We got calls from usually staid people telling us how biased we were or have been in our reporting because, I think, we didn’t advocate their point of view. I had calls from my children telling me about their challenges in San Francisco and Norman, Oklahoma. And I sent my wife and daughter-in-law off biking on Sunday after church, when they were honked at and disparaged for having had the nerve to push the button at the crosswalk on Milton Avenue, causing the light to turn red and slow down a couple of people apparently in a hurry.
The events in Paris, Russia, Mali and other countries involving terrorists have colored our world the past few weeks with a darkness of debilitating intensity and a flavor of raw evil that we have seldom seen or encountered. Thirty or so governors declared their states off limits to Syrian refugees this month even though they have little to no authority to make that call. Even Jeb Bush joined in in spite of the fact that so many of his state’s south Florida residents fled Communist Cuba for the safe haven of Miami and the open arms of the United States just a few decades ago. I am fairly speechless at his memory loss.
Germany opens its arms to 800,000 and we choke on 10,000? Aren’t we the country that was born when refugees fled England and sought religious and economic freedom and wasn’t Germany the country that hosted the Holocaust? What?
Actually I have wanted to write about the refugees for the last month and have not because I have sort of an unwritten rule that I stay away from my laptop when I can’t write with a sense of calm and clarity in my mind and my heart. That still would not be possible for me right now on that topic. Move on.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner as I write this, but we experienced time travel I guess Sunday night when we went to Avalon to see “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon (it’s really good). It felt like Christmas Eve in New York City – as if I have even been in New York City during Christmas – not. There were bands, lights and Christmas music blasting from Mark Toro’s speakers throughout the promenade while little children laughed and giggled on the ice rink and chased each other as their parents stood outside the rink with their noses in their smart phones. It was cold, loud and Christmas in November in Alpharetta, and we were there with thousands of others.
I received email after email – and some texts and calls this week – from people wanting to help Ilka, my delivery person whose husband had a heart attack and for whom I have been so worried and about whom I wrote a column last week. People offered to send her money (which she did not accept). Some didn’t have money but offered to run errands or baby-sit or “do whatever she needs.” Others offered her advice and leads for companies hiring. Several people offered to interview her for jobs. People, as I knew they would, cared and reached out to her. She will end up with a full-time job, I believe, and she will have the peace in knowing that so many of you are pulling for her and are there for her. The response that touched me most was from a woman who offered to come do odd jobs for her. She said that she didn’t really have any specific skills but, since she had recently been laid off, she had the time and wanted to make the best of it and help Ilka get back on her feet.
I don’t have to walk far to find and to see the other side of all the darkness. The light is always there if you look. It is all around us. It is close enough to touch and is familiar as a long-forgotten scent.
Christina and I attended a Thanksgiving service this past week. It was really more of a social gathering with several speakers talking about the history and meaning of Thanksgiving. The event was hosted by the Istanbul Cultural Center in Alpharetta for the Atlantic Institute (TheAtlanticInstitute.org) – a Turkish Muslim organization dedicated to interfaith dialogue. We ate. We talked. And we listened. The message that night was a simple one. The speaker – a professor of Islamic studies – told us that everything, everything that makes our world worthwhile, starts with being thankful for what we have.
“If you cannot be thankful, nothing else works and our world begins to unravel," he said. “So, be thankful. It is what brings the light to our world."