Editorial: Man from China helped Signal reporter to see Thanksgiving 2013 was a day to share and give thanks on many levels

Published 4:41 pm Friday, November 29, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Thanksgiving 2013 served as a powerful reminder to me that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful to God for the blessings we have and to share with others. And that sharing can be as simple as listening and encouraging someone to make a difference.

This Thanksgiving, a man from China found a possible outlet in me for research he is doing to help find solutions for healthcare issues facing our nation and in which Lowndes County could play a part.

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If you saw my Thanksgiving editorial that was on line at our www.lowndesgianl.com website this past Wednesday or Thursday, you may recall that I wrote that this Thanksgiving my wife, Cam, and I would be enjoying Thanksgiving lunch with her twin sister, Pam, and her husband, Clark Schatz, who open their doors every year to up to 30 international students from places like China and various countries in the Middle East.

As it turns out, this year the students were from China, Indonesia, Guatemala and Egypt.

Pam and Clark always make it a point to share with their guests that to them Thanksgiving is both a national and religious holiday to express thanks to God for all our blessings and to share good food with family and friends.

They always explain the history of Thanksgiving and invite everyone to join in their prayer of thanks.

To commemorate Thanksgiving, many churches also hold community Thanksgiving services such as the worship and community luncheon held annually at First Missionary Baptist Church on Pine Street in Hayneville.

My wife, Cam, and I always find that the international students who attend the luncheon at her sister’s house, regardless of their nations of origin, are eager to learn our Thanksgiving tradition and to try (what to them are strange foods) like the dressing that goes with the turkey.

Last year, one lady from the Middle East loved Cam’s sister’s dressing so much that she could not eat enough of it. She said she had never eaten anything like it before.

This year, in meeting the internationals, I met Haichang Xin, a PhD statistician for the UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) School of Public Health. And to my surprise, it proved a fortuitous meeting for both of us.

As I sat down to eat with Cam, my mother and the internationals at our table, I introduced myself to Xin, who asked me what I did for a living. When I told him I was a newspaper reporter who covers Lowndes County, Ala., he became very excited.

The reason… Xin is doing research on the high cost and yet low quality of healthcare in the United States and its impact on rural communities where unemployment is high and there are other social and economical factors that come into play such as is the case in Lowndes County.

I told Xin about how research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked Lowndes County last of 67 Alabama counties in terms of health outcomes and mortality for 2013, and that the county was ranked 65th in morbidity and health factors, 67th in health behaviors, 33rd in clinical care, 64th in social and economical factors and 63rd in physical environment.

Xin had heard about Lowndes County and said that was exactly what he is studying and he offered to share his research findings with me at some future point.

He cautioned that there is no “magic bullet” solution to the problems of healthcare in areas of poor economy, but that he is seeking an outlet to share his findings.

I encouraged him to send his findings to me.

Whether or not Xin’s research is applicable to Lowndes County or makes a future story in The Lowndes Signal, only time will tell. But I am happy that Xin, who has been in the United States for seven years, and just six month in Alabama, had a place to spend Thanksgiving among friends, share an American tradition and food and thanks, and found someone in me who was willing to hear him out on his work and offer him some inspiration.

In return he is a news source to me who may lead to future stories on healthcare in Lowndes County.

As for me, I would like to share that I am thankful to God for my wife, my family and friends, my job covering Lowndes County, the people who make my job possible and the people I work with.

I am also thankful that I live in a free nation as a member of a free press where we are free to report the news, both good and bad, without government interference.

I am also thankful to live in a nation where we, the people, elect our leaders who serve us and our interests.

According to History.com, it was in 1621 that the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

For more than 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by the individual colonies and states.
But it wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

This part of Alabama, now known as Lowndes County, has a played a significant role in American history from the Creek Indian War, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights era. The county itself was created in 1830.

That means that the people who live in what is Lowndes County have celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving since Lincoln proclaimed it.

It is my hope that all of us reflect on our blessings as a nation and that we move forward in the spirit of friendship, community and the people of one nation regardless of race, color or creed to make life better for all of us.