Whittle: Get those compliments out in 2015
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By DAN WHITTLE

"Let's go fly a kite, and soar to the highest heights": Partial song lyrics from a 1990s-era movie about the book entitled "Mary Poppins."

Or as my late great Air Force pilot/buddy Steve Fitzhugh would put it: "Let us slip the surly bonds of earth" as a promise of the "New Year" approaching.

A recent sleepless night was brightened when I watched a portion of "Saving Mr. Banks," the award-winning movie, starring Tom Hanks, who portrayed the immortal Walt Disney in creating the movie taken from the book "Mary Poppins."

Did you know Mr. Disney was a newspaper delivery boy back in Missouri before he became world famous?

That inspirational movie caused this former newspaper boy from Missouri to reflect about what makes a person soar emotionally, to the highest peaks of personal fulfillment.

My primary New Year's Resolution is pay more compliments to folks I'm blessed to share experiences with as another year for mankind comes dauntingly over the horizon.

Boyhood neighbor of youth, A.J. Neel, was one of my earliest encouragers ... a farmer who recognized early Little Danny Whittle had an affinity for "words". So when I was age 4, before any formal schooling, A.J. Neel began bringing me books each month from our farm town's little library. Thank you A.J. Neel, may your own restless book-reading heart rest in peace where good farm neighbors go.

My writing heart soared in 2014, when some residents of Spain made the effort to purchase one of my own books. Anyone paying money to purchase a book is the highest compliment to an author.

That first book (Canalou: People, Culture, Bootheel Town) took so long in getting published hometown neighbor Johnny Barnett frequently needled me at church: "Whittle, you just made that book up. It'll never see the light of day."

Sadly, Johnny died before my first book finally got published: So, from time to time, I take my book and read a chapter to him over his grave at the beautiful, immaculately-kept Maple View Cemetery. That's my "compliment" to dearly departed friend Johnny Barnett, who loved getting under my skin.

*To living neighbors Joyce Ann Taylor, Hilda Stuart, Truman Jones and John Hood, for their loyalty and tireless devotion to loved ones.

*To Mr. Bill Smith, for his devotion to family and community, including the thousands of families he's befriended in his nine decades of life as the friendly neighborhood banker (now retired) to the people of Woodbury ... and without the benevolence of Mr. Smith, there would likely be no nationally-acclaimed Arts Center of Cannon County, a treasure trove for people who value the arts and artisans.

*To retired Col. Jim Stone, not only for his heroic helicopter flying missions to save the lives of countless U.S. soldiers back in the marshes of Vietnam, but also for the countless present-day veterans and families he works tirelessly for each year in organizing Cannon County's memorable Veterans Day Tribute. His efforts also benefit teenaged youth, since Col. Stone launches the annual Veterans Day celebration on grounds at Cannon County High School.

*To retired public school educators Jerry Gaither and Roger Turney. Hundreds of students from their native Auburntown have gone on to lead valued, productive lives. Mr. Gaither also benefitted countless students as the former superintendent of schools in Rutherford County. Good teachers, like them and retired Mary Woodard, are called by God!

*To the tireless Christine Huddleston, a native of rural Milton who moved into Murfreesboro to establish the Room in the Inn that has provided shelter, blankets, food and medication to thousands of homeless children, men and women during the past 50 years.

*To the Demos Restaurant Family and employees, who give of themselves and resources to the community in so many ways.

*To fellow photographer Scott Walker whose camera always seems to focus on helping the helpless of our society. As a radio newsman, Scott represents the next generation of Middle Tennessee journalists dedicated to helping the region's homeless through donations of blankets, food and clothing with each seasonal blast of winter.

*To budding amateur photographer Donna Reed for sharing the beauty of Mother Nature, as viewed through her trusty Nikon D-90, a heavy, but very durable camera. Her pictures of wildlife help warm this older photographers' heart, when it's too cold to get out in the winter's raw elements.

*To Pat Castleman Whittle, for being patient with hearing the "clickety-clack" sound of my writing computer at all odd hours of days and nights.

*And to Honey Bear, a walking and breathing love machine that loyally compliments Pat and me each day we come in from the cold reality of this sometimes tough old world.

Amen!

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