Friendship is the most precious gift of all

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I have a passion for writing. I do it in my sleep and awake searching for a pad of paper and a pen.

I love the written word, the spoken word and words both old and, to some degree, new. I enjoy reading the words of others, examining each phrase as though it is a puzzle to delve into and discover new riches.

I credit my parents, and my aunt, for this love of words.

As a little girl, my mother would read endlessly to me. When she stopped, I'd beg for more.

My aunt, a former Navy nurse, traveled all over the world, becoming consciously aware of words. Grammar and pronunciation is still extremely important to her.

Perhaps it was then, combined with a relative that loved politics and broadcast journalism, that the formative beginnings of my passion for words truly manifested.

It is therefore quite frustrating to not be able to find the words to communicate just how I feel at times.

This past week I celebrated a birthday. Whether this gentleman knew that or not, I still do not know, but he blessed me with a gift that I couldn't even find words with which to properly thank him.

James Cook walked into my life as a contributor of history for the bicentennial book the T-G will publish sometime this fall. He has helped me significantly, researching items and bringing cherished pieces of history to me for the publication.

We have developed quite a friendship in the past months. We share a common interest in historical data and matters, talking for long periods of time about Civil War documents and especially, newspapers.

He first shared with me a magazine published by Harper's Weekly that pictured Shelbyville in 1862. He brought an original copy of the local papers from that general time as well.

Throughout the year, Mr. Cook has produced no less than five different papers, all aged significantly but in good shape, to contribute to my project.

Then, he added local color with volumes of past issues of the Shelbyville Mills-area magazines, published monthly by the plant that once graced our city's western line. Pictures, pins and government documents have found their way to me through his hands.

But Wednesday, he honored me with a gift that left me speechless .

With a grin, I watched him approach my desk in the newsroom; so many times in the past weeks, his arrival heralded my good fortune in the history department.

He had called the day before, on my birthday, asking if he could stop by but my schedule was already overflowing. Wednesday would be the day of his arrival, it was decided. I always look forward to him visiting because I learn something from him each time.

"What did you bring me this time?" I laughingly questioned him.

He shyly smiled and then said, "This isn't for the book. This is for you."

He withdrew an aged copy of an 1682 coffeehouse paper. A real one!

I was so astonished. I was -- well- speechless.

"I know you enjoy history," he said. "And I know you love newspapers. I couldn't think of a more appropriate present since you've helped me so much in the last few months."

I had helped him? Will wonders never cease?

He was the hero in my book, having supplied endless bits and pieces of information to me.

What a treasure I now hold in my possession. Not only is the paper itself a priceless relic but it was given with such a gracious and golden heart -- the touch of a wonderful friend.

There are so many wonderful people in Bedford County that I have met that I now cherish. People I didn't know before taking the job; all with stories that are still to be told. People who, though they were in my world, were not really in my world.

How fortunate I am to now have so many wonderful friends.

Mr. Cook, I don't know how to say "thank you" in a more proper tribute than to let the world know what a dear person you have become in my life. Not just for the material contributions that you have provided but for the one thing people need most and don't even know they are missing: friendship.

Thank you for making my day so very special. I will cherish the paper with pride but I will cherish your friendship for exactly what it is: a priceless testimony on camaraderie.