Archived Story

Co-worker’s death is reminder to be thankful

Published 6:12pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today is Thanksgiving.

Normally, this is the time of year you read columns about how we need to slow down and reflect on what we should be thankful for in our lives.

Or you peruse articles lamenting how our culture has forgotten the importance of the holiday as we scramble to get ready for Christmas.

Both of these sentiments are true. We do need to be thankful for the blessings in our lives and it is a shame that Thanksgiving has somehow been relegated to a secondary status when compared to Halloween and Christmas.

However, I believe most of us ignore these attitudes as we go about our daily lives. In many ways, we take for granted what we already have and focus on what we think we need to gain happiness and contentment, whether that is money, a stable relationship or some other unfulfilled desire.

Additionally, some people have become jaded by the world we live in, choosing to emotionally withdraw from family and friends in an attempt to protect themselves from the pain and suffering this world surely brings. If you’ve built a wall around yourself, it’s hard to be thankful for anything in your life.

To be honest, I’ve suffered from similar emotions, like feeling sorry for myself because of what I lack and also placing my needs before others. My only solace is the fact most of us at some time feel this way, although it doesn’t justify the sentiment in the least bit.

I began to think about these issues intensely this week when I found out our newsroom assistant, Lea Ann Stewart, had passed away on Tuesday at the young age of 44.

You might think one of my reactions to this unexpected news was a sense of thankfulness for my own family’s good health, and to a certain extent that’s true. But Lea Ann’s death has affected me in other ways that are not so obvious.

One of the things I always appreciated about Lea Ann was the interest she had for some of my columns.

Even though most of what I produce is probably sub par, she always seemed to enjoy them and frequently told me so. In a business where deadlines and pressure to instantly produce good copy abound, pats on the back for a job well done are few and far between.

I vividly remember a time when Lea Ann came into my office and congratulated me for an Alabama Press Association award I had somehow won.

I knew about the award, but really didn’t care because I had too much on my plate that day to think about it.

But she made me stop for a minute and enjoy the moment.

For some reason, she wanted to spread some joy that day and I’m glad she did.

I wish I had taken the time to know Lea Ann better. She was a kind soul that not only affected me in a positive way but also many others in our community.

Without a doubt, all who knew her will miss her.

Lea Ann’s passing has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for what God has given me, even though I know I don’t deserve it.

Remembering her kind words have cracked the jaded lenses I’ve been wearing lately, and that’s a good thing.

Maybe, just maybe this year I can appreciate Thanksgiving Day like it should be.

And maybe you can too.

I know that would make Lea Ann happy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.

  • tswope

    I’m not even sure where to begin – maybe by saying thank you to Mr. Steele. I worked there with Lee Ann many years ago and your column is right on about her personality, though it barely begins to scratch the surface. I am still in shock, as are most of our former colleagues, over her death, but the one thing that has remained ever present in my mind since learning of her passing is “sweet.” Lee Ann had to be one of the sweetest people I have ever known. She was so quiet, soft-spoken and hard working that there were times I forgot she was there. But then we would take a break and have a chat, her with that ever-present smile. I had done so well keeping it together until I read your column, and I remembered just how caring and supportive she always was; now I can only sit here and weep. At a time that I was going through a lot, Lee Ann was always there, not with advice or criticism, just moral support. Her smile and soft tone of voice were always so reassuring. Many of us who worked at the Outlook then have found each other through FaceBook, I only wish I had had the chance to reconnect with Lee Ann, because I now realize just how terribly I have and am going to miss her. Thank you Mr. Steele for showing those who didn’t know Lee Ann what a great person she truly was. Please give my condolences to her family. God Bless.