The year was 1993 when I seemingly broke that infamous “glass ceiling”. I was selected to be the Director, Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than women’s rights.

The first interesting thing I learned was that the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, yet the employees and their services were disliked by many of the citizens. This dichotomy made no sense and, me being me, dove into this mystery.

I discovered the many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities of the mission of each of the numerous agencies that serve our citizens, which often made it difficult to serve as efficiently as we would like. As an HR professional I then dug deeper still into the lifeblood of these agencies – the people.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, “Pete: Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But not city only. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples. Okay?”

I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, and good benefits with some of the best government “peoples”  that I have ever had the honor to know. I soon learned that government employees really care. Day by day, this person, me, from the all-knowing private sector, gained respect for these wonderful people.  What a privilege and blessing this was for me.  It changed the way I looked at the world as I understood what, “God Bless America” really means.

One such person, Debbie Landers, who worked with me in Human Resources at the GDOL remains dear to me, as well as to so many people who know her. She is and has always been more than a government employee, although she was the best at that!

Debbie, now retired, stays busy with volunteering at the senior center and at  a men’s homeless shelter she has served in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years. Additionally, she shares, with her Facebook friends, a daily posting of gratitude. I have her permission to share one of her postings that made a difference to me, as I never fail not only to read them, but to reflect on them, to bring them into my heart, and to make them part of my being.

Debbie’s Day of Gratitude:
Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. The volunteers who came and shared a meal and their companionship with our guests was heart-felt. This group came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special”. Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night. Another example of kindness was when the guys were on their “smoke break”, I was talking with one gentleman and he told me that one year ago, he lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless. As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he informed me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.

It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation. So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”

Debbie As Pete, the muppet, said,  “Peoples may be peoples”, but Debbie is a living legacy

that so many of us have good reasons to be grateful for in this season of Thanksgiving.

Who are you thankful for?

Be sure to let them know.