Thanks Uncle Don!

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2002

By By James Crawford
News Editor
I love the holidays. I love the singing, the happiness, the friendly people and mostly I love the memories of holiday's gone past. I'm the first person to dig out the albums and the old eight-millimeter films. This past holiday was a bit different for me, being out of town for the first time during Thanksgiving and having to rush home for a short stay over the weekend to spend time with my family.
It also turned out to be a learning experience for me. I was reminded of something that I know I shouldn't forget, but have. Be thankful for not only the good things in your life but also the good people. In my case, one person stood out above the rest this Thanksgiving.
I believe everyone has someone in their life that played a key part in their development while they were young. Although I'm fortunate enough to say several have played key roles in my professional development as a journalist and in my further education there is one person who stands out when I think about who played a key role in my youth and that's my Uncle Don Stephens.
My Uncle Don somewhat took the role of surrogate father to me. When I was still very young, my own father had to leave town to find work when the Gulf States Paper Mill in Tuscaloosa shut down and my relationship with him was strained at best.
I was young and headstrong and Uncle Don saw that I needed some guidance to straighten me up. So, he decided to give me my first regular, paying job, doing chores around his house every Saturday. While I did those chores, Uncle Don taught me lessons about work ethic. He taught me to try to do things right the first time, ask questions, be mindful of what you're doing and he also taught me lessons about life.
Uncle Don was helping to guide me to be decent man, although you couldn't have told me that at the time. It's the lessons he taught me about how to treat people and how to conduct myself that I refer to daily in my life. I often think of things he used to say in the spur of the moment that I didn't listen to then, but now when I'm writing them down so I never forget again.
I was reminded of just how much he meant to me after I saw him during my trip home this last weekend. He has in the last few years battle cancer and the terrible struggle of living with the after effects. Over the years, I never have taken the time to sit down with him and thank him for all the things he did for me and still does for me every time I look back to a lesson he taught me.
I regret that I haven't made the time to talk to him, so I'm dedicating this column in hopes that he will understand how I feel and I encourage everyone during the holidays to seek out that person who meant something dear to you in your youth and go visit them or call for a few minutes to thank them.
Although our past doesn't always define who we are today, it certainly plays a role in who we'll be tomorrow and the person who forgets to look back is blind to what the future can hold.

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