Mark Ballard

My readers top my gratitude list

jvorhees@macon.com

I try to wake up each morning with gratitude. I believe the act of being grateful is extremely important. After all, waking up healthy in a free world is definitely something for which to be thankful.

But, that is just the beginning of a very long list for me. I have been blessed in so many ways.

High on my list of things I’m grateful for are the creative gifts I have been given. I call them gifts because I have always known that’s what they are. Over the years, I’ve tried my best to handle my gifts with care and to share them with others. I believe we all have gifts of some kind and should all share them with those around us.

I’m also very grateful that I have a platform that allows me to reach larger audiences with my words and artwork. I treat this gift as if it is a fragile piece of porcelain because I never want to abuse its power.

It is my goal to keep positivity showcased on my stage at all times. I sometimes fail, but try very hard to remind myself of the power of words. Words can offer comfort and support but can also cause pain and heartache.

Over the years I’ve been blessed to be able to write a weekly column for The Telegraph. In my column, I often travel back in time to my childhood where I wake up sleeping family members, friends and other characters from my past. Many of those memories make me smile as they come to visit, while others make me laugh out loud. Some of my memories can even bring tears to my eyes. Most of them are happy tears but there are some that are not.

As we all know, everything in life is not always sugar and spice. Sometimes life serves up heaping helpings of sadness and disappointment. I try to file those kinds of memories in a tightly closed box in the depths of my mind. But there are times when these depressing memories escape their confines. Then I remember that everything that happens to us makes us who we are. As a result, we all are forced to take the good with the bad.

Recently, I was reminded of why I’m so grateful to be an author and an artist. The thing I love most about this time of year are the holiday shows in which I participate. They offer me the chance to visit with many of my fans in person. As my mother always told me, “You really never know how much what you do and say affects others.”

After I finish writing my column each week and it goes to press, I have no way of knowing how many people read it. I frequently receive hand-addressed letters and emails, which I always enjoy reading, but there is just something special about being with someone in person and listening to their comments.

Many readers passed by my booth the last couple of weekends. Some stood in line and waited patiently in order to talk with me. I’m so grateful they did.

Each one of them offered a particular column that was especially meaningful to them. They shared with me how my words and memories caused them to recall some of their own. I listened carefully as they re-lived an important part of their life. I was so blessed to be able to hear from them.

One thing I’ve discovered as I visit with these readers is that we are all more similar than different. Each person stated how similarly to me they were raised. They cited specific things that made them drive down their own memory lane. The characters in their memory may be a little different from mine, but the underlying stories are pretty much the same. One sweet fan was brought to tears as she spoke with me. I must admit I became a little misty-eyed as well.

As Thanksgiving comes for its annual visit this Thursday, my gratitude list is very long and varied. Near the top of this list are the readers of this column. I’m grateful for each of you and the wonderful opportunity I have to share my memories with you.

I may reach more people with my words, but your memories are just as important. Memories are indeed treasures that are worth more than gold. Each of us should definitely be grateful that we have them!

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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