It’s easy not to be grateful these days. Most of us are so showered in blessings that we sometimes take them for granted. Instead of appreciating all that we have, we come to expect nothing less. These six Charlotte residents, on the other hand, find moments every day to be thankful. Here are their stories, in their own words, as told to Observer editorial board members.
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Donald Reid, 57, was homeless for 12 years before moving into Moore Place two weeks ago. T. Ortega Gaines, email@example.com
Reid, 57, is mostly blind. Homeless for 12 years, he moved into Moore Place two weeks ago.
I was taking care of my mother, she had Alzheimer’s. When she passed in 2001, she gave her house to my brother and I had to move out from the house. I was working construction til my sight got bad in 2011 and I couldn’t do it anymore. I started staying at the shelter and I was homeless and blind.
I went to churches when it’s real cold, with Room in the Inn. I met a social worker, she asked me questions and she said, “I’m going to help you” and she helped get me into Moore Place.
I love it here. I’m just glad to be here. This is home for me. When you’re looking for a home to live in and nobody will give you a place to stay and you work hard and you get your own spot, it’s a blessing. It really is. I’ve got my health and my strength and I can survive with that.
I miss my mom because she was my friend and I think about her all the time. We had some good times together. At Thanksgiving time, we would be together and cook turkey at the house. She’d put on a turkey for me and we’d just have a good time. I really miss her. I’m thankful when I think about my mom and the good ol’ days because when you have good parents who bring you up and you stay out of trouble, you appreciate life a little better.
Deborah Taylor, a registered nurse who was arrested for embezzling prescription drugs, is grateful to her husband and church family for continuing to support her as she battles an addiction to opiates. T. Ortega Gaines, firstname.lastname@example.org
Taylor, 49, the wife of a Baptist minister, was a registered nurse who surrendered her license after being convicted of embezzling drugs from her hospital. She is battling addiction to opiates and Adderall. She graduates from Dove’s Nest next month.
I’m most grateful when I realize that there are forgiving people. I went to jail for 21 days. It was the first time I’d ever been in trouble. It was insane living. I’d put so much on the line, I’d hurt my husband, my church family.
We’ve been married almost 26 years. Christians, when they say that they forgive people, it’s not just words, it’s the action of it too – especially with what I’ve done, to hurt people and bring pain and embarrassment to the church. But they truly do forgive me.
My husband, he knew me before I turned into this insane person, and now he’s able to see me turning back to God, to what my values and morals were before I turned to drugs. It’s really great to know I’ve got people praying for me, that my husband’s praying for me.
I still worry a little about going back in the church, you know, and not being ashamed. Even though there’s forgiveness, people don’t always forget. But I’m very grateful for my church and my husband. I’m thankful for God, allowing me to recognize what I’ve done and forgive myself, and know He has forgiven me.
Lori Gourley is thankful for the Dove's Nest program for women, and a second chance at a sober, happy life with her husband and kids. T. Ortega Gaines, email@example.com
Gourley, 37, mother of two young children, has been at Dove’s Nest three months. She fell prey to alcohol addiction during a series of economic setbacks her family suffered. She wept as she spoke of the pain she has caused loved ones.
I am most thankful when I realize I’ve made the turn toward a better life. I went to treatment almost two years ago and had 13 months of sobriety. Unfortunately, I relapsed.
I was just in the grips of my alcoholism. I couldn’t find the strength to get out. I’m grateful my husband had the strength to intervene and get me help. He took me to detox, and then brought me here.
I want to live a happy sober life, more than anything. I want to be the wife and mother my husband and children deserve. I want to be the woman God meant for me to be, and that requires work. And I’m willing to put in the work.
I was very nervous about being away from my children, but being here has been the biggest blessing in my life.
I have been treated with nothing less than absolute love and respect. I feel safe to do the work that I need to do, and I have nothing but gratitude. I still have the chance to live the life God wants me to.
Vernard Hall, 38, is fighting alcoholism through the Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Rebound program. It is his first time in a recovery program. T. Ortega Gaines, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hall, 38, has struggled with alcohol addiction since his teen years, and is getting help through the Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Rebound men’s program getting help for the first time.
I have been sober 137 days today. I’m very grateful for Rebound. This is my first time being in recovery. It got to a point where I realized I needed help. I hit rock bottom. I realized I couldn’t do it myself.
Today I feel better about myself, more confident. I feel I can be a better father, a better son, a better person all around. I have more hope in accomplishing the things I want to accomplish in the future.
I’ve got four kids – twin girls and two boys. I’ve always been in their lives, but not as regular as I should. It’s time for a change. I start school in January for culinary arts.
I’ve learned a lot here. I know that alcohol is something I do not need, that I can control. I don’t even have the craving for it any more. I can be around people who are drinking it and not be bothered by it.
I know as long as I don’t take that first drink, I’ll be all right. As long as I keep my faith in God and stay focused. One day at a time.
Connie Ingle, 54, is thankful when she can sit on her couch with no police officers telling her to move on. T. Ortega Gaines, email@example.com
Ingle, 54, lived on the street and in abandoned buildings for eight years before moving into Moore Place in August.
I grew up in Newcastle, Ind., and moved to Charlotte in 1984 because my older sister was here. I got a job at the Krispy Kreme and I had to stay in some seedy hotels until I got into the women’s Y.
The time I was on the street is my training time for the Lord. For eight years it was cold, it was wet, I was bit by bugs and everything. He may prepare you within the four walls or he may prepare you outside four walls. He just took me outside the four walls for eight years or so.
When you’re on the street and you have to go you have to get up and find a bush. It’s very nice now to get up and use the bathroom and have the tissue. What hits me is when I’m sitting on the couch in the living room, that’s when it hits me that I’m actually here. Because when you sit anywhere on the street, here comes the cops trying to move you. So it hits me when I’m sitting in the living room that I’m actually in that God has actually brought me to this place at this time. I’m very thankful that the Lord orchestrated everything according to his plan, and it ain’t over yet, baby!
All that struggle, all that strife is going to accumulate into something and it’s all for the kingdom of God.
Hivonna Walker and her three children have found a safe path away from financial distress. T. Ortega Gaines, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since September, Hivonna, 40, and her three children have been part of the YWCA’s Families Together program, which gives parents and children in distress temporary housing, counseling and stability.
I was living in an apartment. I was working full-time, but my expenses outweighed my income. I didn’t factor in certain situations. It was not having the financial education that I needed. Not having goals.
I was about to be homeless.
It was very stressful. It was difficult to focus on your relationship with your children when you’re worried about how you’re going to eat and where your money is going to come from. You’re borrowing money. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I knew about Families Together, but I just never thought I would have to be here. It’s a year to 18 months here. My goal is for it to be a year. I’m planning to go back to school and get my paralegal certificate so that when I leave here I have some stability for me and my children.
I’m thankful when I come home. Especially with the temperature. I’m thankful when I walk into my house and I’m able to sit down and enjoy my children without worrying that I might not have a place to stay.