By Teresa Nguyen
Main Street truly glowed, the lights from giant snowflakes reflecting on the rain-washed pavement. Delightfully painted windows, holiday displays and colored lights adorned the shops, while folks meandered the streets in warm coats and knitted scarves.
Live bands of varying genres entertained from the stages of stores, bars and coffee shops as the townspeople, on a break from purchasing local arts and crafts, enjoyed laughter and music over chocolaty sweet treats, savory snacks and delicious beverages. A perfect escape from the chilly winds on this November evening.
Seems like a scene out of a Hallmark movie, but this was Janesville’s “Meander Downtown”, an event from Downtown Janesville, Inc. encouraging shopping local and bringing people out and about our newly vibrant downtown.
And what a wonderful success! In my role as History Teller for the Rock County Historical Society, I was thoughtfully collecting observations, along with stories from the crowds wandering place to place along the radiant streets.
How heartwarming that the theme of “gratitude” flowed so smoothly from the minds of local residents. In today’s world, where news is mostly negative, political turmoil, national tragedies and personal hardship are commonplace, it was refreshing to hear warm reflections on the positive aspects of their lives.
If we stop to consider the less fortunate, we can usually find something for which to be thankful. It is at least wise, if not spiritually and physically healthy to pause for the positives.
Take Rock County, for example. We live in a pretty healthy community with a growing economy, relatively low crime, and a population of citizens with very generous hearts. What has always impressed me about Rock County is our level of volunteerism, the way we support non-profits and how we support each other.
We are a community of compassion. When a family faces hardship, neighbors, friends and countless strangers come out to help. When a non-profit faces a loss, we come together to help fill the void. Fundraiser events dot the annual calendar like sparkling lights on Christmas tree.
We can be thankful for not only a peaceful place to live, but for abundant opportunities of culture and recreation, from year-round productions at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, to concerts in the park and parades for Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.
We host numerous art festivals and our county landscape is filled with breathtaking parks and bike trails. Our winding Rock River provides us with boating and fishing opportunities and the summer Rock Aqua Jays ski shows.
Our fun doesn’t stop when the snow falls, as Janesville’s Jolly Jingle parade and activities are scheduled for the first weekend of December. We can find exciting events at The Janesville Ice Arena, tour the beautiful Holiday Light Show at our one of a kind Rotary Gardens, and of course, experience A Tallman Christmas – a gorgeous holiday tour through the elegantly decorated Lincoln-Tallman House. These are only a few of the many opportunities for a chance to enjoy our community in the company of family and friends.
While helping adorn our RCHS tree in the Lincoln-Tallman House, I paused a moment to appreciate the number of volunteers dressing the many trees throughout the home, trees which are sponsored by local businesses and organizations. Visitors from far and wide can come and enjoy glistening lights, winding ribbons, and unique ornaments throughout the mansion, holiday trimmings along the staircase and lovely fireplace mantles.
It’s such a perfect Victorian setting in the gorgeous Lincoln-Tallman House. Generous, warm hearts poured hours into creating this glorious beauty, adding deeper meaning to our lives, while reminding us what Christmas is all about. The best moment during our decorating occurred when we learned someone had donated a tree in honor of the G.I.F.T.S. Men’s Shelter; yet another example of why I love this community.
In collecting my stories of gratitude, it came as no surprise that family and friends topped the list. Some had unique stories of thanks, such as a woman who triumphed over health issues, or one grateful for all the ways we can communicate. Sill, nearly all of the stories boiled down to gratitude for their loved ones.
With this in mind, let us treat our loved ones, those same family and friends for whom we give thanks, with the respect and kindness they deserve. President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Let us give thanks for the big and the small
For flowers in spring and the colors of fall
For winter landscapes and warm summer sun
For hope and for faith, for laughter and fun
For friends who share joy, a smile on a face
For family we have, a precious embrace
For time with our elders and babies so new
For wisdom, for courage, and tenderness, too
For freedom, for peace, the land that we roam
For health, our wealth, a place to call home
For food and for shelter away from the storm
Especially for love, so gentle and warm
We have no cause to dismiss being grateful at every turn. If we actually pondered the challenging circumstances of the early Pilgrims, poverty, brutal winters, rampant disease, hostile enemies and so much death, we would see the true wonder in their purposeful, special day to give thanks. Let this piece of American history be an eternal lesson for us all. May we always pause for the positives, and may the hardships we face never obscure the view of our blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!