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Giving thanks for Oxford; ‘blessed neck of the woods’

Jim Dees said it best.

“We’re blessed in this neck of the woods,” the Oxford and Lafayette County personality said, referring to this place we call home.

He’s right. We are blessed in this neck of the woods. Travel around the country and explain that you are from Mississippi and expect a mixed bag of reactions, including some who say with a grimace, “I’m sorry.”

Explain that you are from Oxford and find reactions more akin to hearty embrace. “I love that place,” they will verbalize.

I was reminded of our community strength in a recent 48 hours dash through a spectrum experience that left me looking literally toward the sky and uttering two simple words.

Thank you.

Consider my time with many lifelong friends and women I respect during a stop with the Browning Club of Oxford. Founded here in 1895 by four community women who wanted members to have an outlet for educational exploration since higher education shunned them at the time, the club has thrived for decades because its heart is in the right place.

Today, Browning Club members are among the community’s most caring and involved, and they invited me to talk to them about the Ole Miss wellness center for alcohol and other drugs education I have involvement in. Because I have years of love and respect for the members of all ages — some of whom I have known since childhood — and because they expressed such heartfelt interest in the subject, I found myself thinking as I spoke that the moment exemplified why Oxford is so enriching.

We have a strong core in our community that cares and makes the effort to connect.

Earlier that same day I was dining with some students at Ole Miss, a few fraternity leaders who reached out on their own accord to say they wanted to make a difference in the battle against alcohol and drug misuse. We have been getting to know one another in recent weeks and by this time I was all but hugging them across the table as they talked about initiatives and ways they wanted to spend their free time working to improve lives for other young people.

My respect for these young men rivals my enjoyment of being with them and developing relationships that will last for long after they graduate and leave the Oxford community. They also remind me that a redeeming characteristic of our community is that we get to engage with young people and help them and watch them grow during such vital times in their lives.

It’s not always easy, since 20,000 youth place an unmistakable mark on the community that can present challenges. But I would not trade it for anything since both the opportunity to mentor and the chance to learn and receive rewards in return makes Oxford’s quality of life high.

By the time Thursday rolled around, a walk to the Square, seeing friends along the way and a visit to the season finale of Thacker Mountain Radio at The Lyric revealed how Oxford brings it all together in song and word. Cedric Burnside awakened North Mississippi with his pounding rhythm just before another musical guest on the show did a rendition of Gloria that somehow had a holiday shopping guide to local Oxford businesses weaved into the lyrics.

Yes, it’s true. But Lenny Kaye, noted guitarist and composer, is unique that way. So is Thacker Mountain Radio, hosted by Dees.

These selected anecdotes from 48 hours of life in Oxford leave another half dozen from the two days that were just as good. Add those to our excellent schools, dynamic churches, walkable neighborhoods, and good, smart people who want to contribute to and live in a vibrant community, and it conjures up the well-stated sentiment from Dees.

“We are blessed in this neck of the woods,” he said.

Yes, we are.

For that, I am thankful.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at david.magee@oxfordeagle.com.