Counting your blessings: Not hard to find good things happening in Columbia


When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

While thinking about the purpose of this annual Profile edition, the words to that hymn came to mind. We at The Columbian-Progress know better than anyone that not all news is good news. It’s a part of our job to report fairly and accurately what happens of significance in this community. That means both good and bad, and I consider it an almost-sacred calling for a newspaper to do its absolute best to report everything that is newsworthy for its readers and the citizens of its community.

Yet no doubt it can take a toll on a community if there is too much negative coverage and sometimes can give an inaccurate picture of what’s really going on in a community.

That’s why every spring — which is fitting as that’s the time that life is renewing once again — we produce this section to take a look at solely the positive things going on in Columbia and Marion County. And it never turns out that we’re scraping around trying to find something to write about. In fact, when we start doing as the song says and counting our blessings, the story ideas tend to overflow to more than we could possibly write about in just one edition. That’s not a bad thing.

Here’s a look at just a few of the good things that are contained in this section:

  • I walked away impressed with the wisdom of Henry Danton after interviewing the ballet instructor who turns 100 two days after publication of this edition. Several times during the interview I slipped up and asked Mr. Danton what he planned to do. Every time he would gently admonish me that he doesn’t make plans. His whole life he says he’s gone along and good things have happened to him. I think that attitude has to be one of the secrets to his longevity. Sometimes we need less planning and more living. “Sufficient unto the day is the trouble therein,” as the Bible teaches.
  • Sports Editor Joshua Campbell had an interesting idea to interview area coaches — one each from Columbia Academy, Columbia High School, West Marion High School and East Marion High School — about why they got into coaching. Each of them emphasized, in different ways, that it has to be about reaching and molding young people, not just winning ballgames. It’s encouraging to see those who devote themselves to that important task.
  • Last school year I began working with Columbia Elementary School to help with the page that its fifth graders produce in the Columbian-Progress from time to time. Throughout that time I’ve been very impressed with how the school operates, and I was glad to see that it was recognized by Mississippi as an “A” school, which is a rare honor reserved for only the truly best schools in the state.

I also appreciated this quote from Principal Robbie White about how they got there: “It’s about impacting a kid. It’s not about getting a score. If we get the score, great, but that’s a byproduct.”

That’s always been my approach to business: Don’t focus too much on the bottom line; that kind of obsessive profit motive is what leads to cheating and fraud and burn out and companies like Facebook and Google who make a lot of money while destroying everything in their wake without any regard for who they hurt along the way (as the hymn we’ve referenced says in a later verse, “Count your many blessings/Money cannot buy/Your reward in heaven/Nor your home on high”).

Rather do things the right way, and in the long run it will come out best for you. It’s good to see that philosophy proven successful in Columbia Elementary’s case.

l I believe that small communities like Columbia live or die based on local leadership. That’s the kind of people, usually successful business owners or other heads of organizations, who are willing to do things for the good of the whole rather than just themselves. Several stories in the edition highlight the importance of such leadership: Tommy King of Columbia helping build up William Carey University as its president; Kristian Agoglia of Looks Great Services taking the lead role in Columbia’s Christmas extravaganza that people are still talking about as Easter approaches; and the entire effort from a lot of people from the state Capitol to the courthouse who have taken something that wasn’t being used (the former Columbia Training School property) and making it into something useful. To be sure, that site still needs a lot of work with many of the buildings in dilapidated shape, but it’s heartening to see what’s been done: Businesses spring up, and people out there all the time exercising. I expect more good things from that property in the future as the state continues to deed back parts of it to the people of Marion County.

Also, I would like to thank our advertisers for their support in this edition. It’s very expensive to produce a publication like this: The cover must be printed separately, shipped to another printer who does the inside pages, cut and trimmed to fit and stapled inside the cover. Then it must be shipped out and delivered. That’s an expensive process. And that’s just the physical production side of things.

Even more so than that, our staff puts in immense hours designing advertisements, conducting interviews, laying out pages and proofing. It’s a lot of work that requires an investment from our local businesses to make that happen. We hope and trust they see the value in a “good news” publication that I don’t think is available in a comprehensive, community-wide way like this anywhere else.

So support your local stores who support you. If we all do that, Columbia will continue to be counting its blessings for generations to come.

This column appeared in the Profile edition published in the March 28 paper. Charlie Smith is editor and publisher of The Columbian-Progress and a 12-year veteran of producing Profile sections. He may be reached at (601) 736- 2611 or


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