Thanksgiving and the 2022 holiday season are moments away, and with them come feelings of stress, anxiety, financial worries, and memories of family debates involving cranberry sauce and who has to sit next to the “funny-smelling” uncle.
Oh…and gratitude. Plenty of it, too, for residents of Gulfport, who had several helpings of positive perspectives to offer when asked what they have been thankful for this past year. Several gratitude lists included Gulfport being a safe and beautiful community.
“I love the small-townness of it,” said Jeanne Bower, a retired health care worker. “It’s walkable, there’s yoga on the beach…There’s just so much to do in this community.”
Many Gulfport residents, including Tony Jenkins of 50th Street South, agree they are thankful for how Gulfport residents look out for each other and keep their yards manicured.
“People are always out cutting their grass, all about the same damn time, too,” laughed Jenkins, who has worked at O’Maddy’s for 10 years.
Some blessings being counted are quite simple.
“I’m thankful for having a roof over my head,” said Todd Morrison, a seven-year resident, while doing his laundry at Deb’s on Gulfport Boulevard.
“I’m thankful for having a job I like,” said Joey Vars, curator at the Gulfport History Museum. “I’ve always liked local history. There’s always something to learn, and helping other people learn keeps the community heritage alive, and I’m grateful for that.”
Thanksgiving is tied with the historical imagery of early settlers and survival. April Hornsleth can relate. Her family has six generations in Gulfport dating back to her great grandfather, George A. Jarrell, who first had to survive the 1871 Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire when he was 11 before reaching Florida.
“I’m thankful for having a wonderful family,” said Hornsleth, the granddaughter of R.W. Caldwell, who began selling Gulfport real estate in 1937 and the namesake of the town’s oldest business.
“If we have a slight disagreement, we will work it out and go out to dinner,” said Hornsleth, who will have family members from the ages of 94 to 7 at her Thanksgiving table.
The unfortunate truth: Having a meal under a roof would be a plus for some.
Paul is a 42-year-old homeless man who spends a good portion of his time by Pavilion #3 by the volleyball courts off Shore Boulevard. He does not have any plans for Thanksgiving as of yet, but he spoke with ease of having gratitude for his place in a much larger world.
“I’m thankful for God and knowing He’s here,” Paul said leaning back in a lounge chair by the waterfront. “(On Thanksgiving), I’ll just be sitting here, waiting.”
Paul said he is waiting on the outcome of a court case involving a property dispute which would grant his family the rights to land in Gulfport rich in minerals.
Christy has been living on a boat in Gulfport for the past year and a half. The 20-something was taking a barefoot stroll through town with Cocoa, a friend’s friendly terrier, when she said she is not really ready for Thanksgiving, but is excited at the same time .
“Living on a boat can be magical, but at the same time stressful and exhausting,” Christy said of her Ericson boat.
Bower recalls reading in the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne how it is wise to find thankfulness even in the worst of situations.
“My mother passed away on my second daughter’s birthday,” Bower said. “But I told my kids now they have another angel watching.”
While to some the ideal of having an “attitude of gratitude” year-round might be as corny as Thanksgiving pudding, Jenkins said there is virtue in teaching family values such as thankfulness.
“I spend time with my grandkids,” said Jenkins. “I teach them the same things my mama taught me, like how to share, say thank you, yes ma’am and no ma’am…just the basics.”