By Ralphine Major

Hers was one of the last Christmas cards we received just before Christmas, and it was special.  So is she!

We met Jessie several years ago at a local restaurant after church one Sunday.  She was the server for our table, and something about her stood out to us.  Maybe it was her friendly smile or her delightful personality.  We noticed she was a hard worker, too.  On our next visit, we asked for Jessie’s table.  She could take an order, serve glasses of water, and carry on small talk—and then she was gone.  Jessie had just the right mix of social grace without imposing on some customers while neglecting others.  Again and again, we picked a table that the petite blonde served.

After several months, this efficient little server traded in her apron of six years for a diploma.  Jessie invited us to her graduation from South College.  We went.  I remember it well—a beautiful summer day at the historic Tennessee Theater.  At times, the graduation ceremony had the feel of a church service.  Dr. Bill Snyder played the organ, and several students sang some of America’s favorite hymns.  It was one of the most beautiful graduation ceremonies I have ever attended.  In a theater filled with graduates and their families, we spotted Jessie and I got a picture of her.  It was made easier to find her in the crowd when she went on stage to receive the award for outstanding student in health sciences!  Our family was so happy to see Jessie accomplish this goal and to be a part of the day’s celebration.  Jessie soon moved out of state to attend graduate school.  In a few months, she will receive her Master’s degree in Occupational and Environmental Health.

Jessie’s Christmas card and picture reminded me how photogenic she is, and the beautiful dog beside her captured our hearts.  We were honored that she wanted to meet our family for lunch during her time home for the holidays.  Jessie shared some of her mouth-watering recipes with us.  She is quite a culinary talent and has even grown some of her own herbs, including dill and basil, for cooking!

We were not surprised to learn that Jessie adopted Spot from a local animal shelter.  She visited several shelters and went back to the very first one to get Spot, named for the one spot on his cream-colored coat.  Spot had captured Jessie’s heart, too!  Spending time with Jessie made for a special day and a perfect way to end the year.  Jessie represents the best in her generation of Americans.  Even at her young age, she shows character and integrity, respect and responsibility, maturity and kindness, drive and ambition, and loyalty and friendship.

As the calendar year comes to a close, may each of us reflect on our life and ways we can be a better person, spread more joy, help more people, and share more of God’s love in the new year.  Perhaps, some may even choose to volunteer at a local charity, make visits to an assisted-living facility, or even adopt a pet.  May we realize, too, what is most important this year and every year as we live our lives day after day—faith, family, and friends.  God bless, and Happy New Year!