Country music great Willie Nelson once said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
That’s what happens to people when they begin to stack up the important things in life that they have as opposed to the material, unimportant things that they don’t have.
November is a time of thanksgiving and reflection. Like many in this community, Pastor Rob Jones of Norwalk’s Fellowship Community Church is thankful for his health, his family and other blessings bestowed upon him.
And one of those other blessings is a simple thing that nearly everyone takes for granted — a roof over his head.
“Each year, members of our church travel to Tijuana, Mexico, to spend a week building houses for the people down there,” says Pastor Jones.
This past summer, Fellowship Community Church members built 16 homes.
To understand why Pastor Jones is so thankful for the home he lives in, you have to understand the type of home he and members of his church builds for those families in Tijuana.
“I think most people, if they saw the homes we build, would call them more of a storage shed than a home,” says Pastor Jones.
The structure church members build for families in Mexico measure 12 feet by 12 feet. Inside there isn’t a living room area, or a bedroom, or a kitchen or a bathroom. It is just a wide open area where families can get out of the elements.
“It doesn’t sound like much – and to be truthful it isn’t a whole lot,” says Pastor Jones, “yet you should see their faces when we turn over the homes to them. They have tears of joy. Just a week earlier they had been outdoors cooking their meals over a fire in the open.”
As an example of what the homes looks like, Pastor Jones had one erected in the parking lot of his church.
“It was quite an eye-opener for the people here,” says Pastor Jones.
Each home costs $850 to build. In addition, funds must be raised to offset the cost of the church members making the trip down to Mexico.
The church reaches it fundraising goal one nickel at a time.
The example home set up in the church parking lot has an opening for people to throw in their pop cans.
“We are grateful for the support we have from the community in our efforts to build these homes where they are desperately needed,” says Pastor Jones. “I think if everyone had the opportunity to go to a third world country, or to an impoverished area, they all would count their blessings for what they have and for living in such a great country like ours.”
Leap of faith
Sometimes people take a leap of faith to improve their lives. For those who took that leap and life has become better because of it, they are thankful for all the support they received in making that life-changing event.
That is the case with John and Debbie Marmon and Lori Boyd.
In January of this year, John and Debbie Marmon bought a building to operate their own realty company from. Before then, the two had just rented a building.
“As realtors, we know it is always better to own than to rent,” says Debbie Marmon. “When John and I started out on our own and purchased a Re/Max franchise in 2010, we rented a spot here in Norwalk just down the road from where we are now.”
To say the housing market was not the best when the Marmons began their own reality company would be an understatement. It was just coming around a little bit when they made the decision to purchase their own building.
Yet, the two persevered and had belief in themselves and the community that their business would not only survive, but thrive.
“And that is why we are so thankful for the support we received from our customers and the community,” says Debbie. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are at today.”
And the name they picked out for their realty firm was an easy choice — American Dream Realty.
“Owning and operating your own business is the ultimate American dream,” says Debbie.
The American dream
Lori Boyd is also chasing the American dream. On April 11 of this year, Boyd celebrated her 20th anniversary of working with Wells Fargo.
Two days later, she left Wells Fargo. On May 11, Boyd opened Amore Pet Boutique in Norwalk– a pet supply and grooming business.
“I wanted out of the corporate world, so I did some research about what business I could operate,” says Boyd. “I found out the pet industry is very strong.”
Boyd takes care of the retail side of the business, while her daughter, Alexis, is the groomer. Even her 9-year-old son Logan gets involved with the business.
“He helps gives the dogs baths and plays with them.”
Opening a new business, even with doing all the research and doing all the planning, is still risky in these tough economic times.
“I admit it’s a little scary — especially when there have been a few days when I didn’t have a lot of customers,” says Boyd. “But that’s why I am thankful for the support I have received.”
Next to being healthy, family ranks right up there at the top as things people are thankful for.
Jamie Sylvester knows all about that.
Sylvester didn’t come from a big family, but her husband Todd did. And every Thanksgiving the Sylvesters would travel to Hedrick where Todd’s parents lived for a big meal. And at every Thanksgiving, her husband’s father, Chris, would tell stories about Thanksgiving Days gone by.
“Chris would talk about how they grew up, the good times they had and about all the practical jokes that were pulled on each other,” says Jamie. “He was the center of attention a lot of the times, and he really loved having all of his family surrounding him.”
This year, however, someone else will have to take up the storytelling at the annual Sylvester family Thanksgiving Day gathering. Chris passed away this past May.
“It will be the first Thanksgiving without him,” says Sylvester.
While some outside the Sylvester family may think it will be a depressing time, Jamie says she believes the spirit of Thanksgiving will shine even brighter.
“Chris was in a tractor accident that left him paralyzed the last three months he was alive,” says Jamie. “Before that, Chris led a healthy, active life.
“It will be a little sad without Chris at Thanksgiving. But Chris is no longer confined to his earthly body. That’s why we are all thankful – Chris is finally pain-free.”
Righting the ship
Life’s path is never straight and smooth. There are bumps, curves and detours along the way.
Some avoid the pitfalls and detours to make it through relatively unscathed.
Some of us, however, take a wrong path or two.
And getting back to the right path isn’t always easy, and rarely does one get back to the right road without a little bit of help. Gregory Glenn knows about going down the wrong paths of life, Glenn, 25, admits he has taken a few detours. Those bad decisions have cost him, and it has made it tough to find steady work. In fact, he has been without a job the past two years.
“I lost my license, so I couldn’t drive to work,” says Glenn. “I tried going back to school, but it was really tough.”
To top it off, his daughter was born last year, making things even rougher.
About a month ago, however, Glenn got a job at the Norwalk Maid Rite.
“I had worked here years ago, so they gave me another opportunity.”
And he is thankful for that opportunity.
“It is a chance for me to get my feet back on the ground and get headed in the right direction,” says Glenn.
Now he plans on cooking Thanksgiving dinner for his girlfriend and his 1-year-old daughter Lyric – and perhaps even his parents. It will be the first time he has ever cooked and hosted a Thanksgiving Day dinner.
“I love to cook, and this will be a chance to spoil the people who have helped me get by the last couple of years,” says Glenn.