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Seminole County’s Bo

Forty years. That is a long time to be in public service. That is how long Bo Earnest served as Seminole County’s Probate Judge before deciding not to run for re-election this year. A large crowd turned out at a reception Sunday afternoon to honor Judge Earnest for his long service.

Rep. Gerald Greene presented a resolution passed by the Georgia House of Representatives in this past Session commending Earnest for his many years in this position. It noted that Judge Earnest had not had competition in an election for the past 20 years. From a politician’s standpoint, this is probably the ultimate compliment of your success in serving the public.

On a personal note, Bo and I first truly crossed paths when I became a County Commissioner and later chairman of the Seminole Board. As I have said before, Bo and I didn’t always see eye to eye about politics and the way the courthouse should be run. That is what makes our relationship so special to me.

Ours wasn’t a friendship born of political convenience. We didn’t have some long family relationship. Bo was a hometown boy and I was from another state. We were almost a generation apart in age. For at least part of our political careers we were members of different political parties.

Along the way, we crossed the bridges that could have separated us. Bo gave me advice, especially when I made my way to Atlanta. I helped him when I could. Somewhere along the way we became friends.

Like me, Bo’s career was helped by his lovely wife, Jerrie. They raised two fine sons, who also married well, and now enjoy the joys of being grandparents several times over.

Congratulations and thanks, Bo. Thanks for your guidance, advice, respect and friendship. This state is better off for your many years of leadership and service.

Christmas Eve

Last week I mentioned that this was the most special service of the year for our family. For the past 25 years or so I have been playing the organ at our church during communion services. For each of those years, I have left the organ during that service to sit with my wife and take communion together.

This year it was just the two of us. Our children and their families have their own special times on Christmas Eve, just as it should be. In the candlelit sanctuary, we made our way to the front to light candles from the Christ candle, to take the bread and dip it in the cup, sharing Christ’s promises on the anniversary that he was born.

As I sat on the edge of the pew, longtime friends touched my shoulder as they made their way to the altar. The sparkle in the eyes of the children, the shake of the hands of old friends, the sight of families gathered together, the soul stirring music and then the age-old message of Christmas.

I may tell stories of Christmas traditions, both past and present, but it is this moment, this sharing of the gifts of God for the people of God, that makes this time so special for me.

Without children

Speaking of the first Christmas without our children, ML and I wondered what it would be like. Where would Santa show up? Would he come to our house on Christmas morning or when our children came the next day?

My mother always said that Santa would show up as long as you believe. Mary Lou and I snuck around the house for hours, giving orders to knock before entering, and shouting when that order was broken. I made at least three late night trips to the only convenience stores open in town. Somehow, we finally crawled into bed around midnight.

We were up earlier the next morning that any of our children, nieces and nephews. Sure enough, Santa had made his way to our house even though it was just the two of us. He even managed to bring each of us the same movie!

Christmas isn’t just about children. It is about the children in all of us.

As a grandfather

My first Christmas as a grandfather! Henry was a real trouper by the time he made it to our house. He had already enjoyed/endured three Christmases with his great-grandparents and his other grandparents.

When I was a boy, there wasn’t a store in town that had as many toys as he received this year. His mother said, only half jokingly, that he was going to be asking for clothes for his birthday.

I was proud that he took particular interest in the wooden blocks and the Lincoln Logs. It gives you a bit of comfort that kids today still enjoy some of the things that I had as a child. Of course, the biggest hit of the year for him was the same as it has been for many generations—the empty box. He crawled in and out and all around, oblivious to all the toys around him.

A New Year

Finally, we bring to a close an exciting and challenging year. For some it was a year with personal joys and sorrows. It was a year filled with images of spectacular athletic feats at the Olympics. Seemingly endless debates, elections and advertisements resulted in the historic election of our first black president.

We have seen the greatest economic collapse in two generations just a few months after we reached the all-time high for the stock market. Oil reached an all-time high only to collapse to a five-year low. Interest rates declined to historic lows even though it is nearly impossible to borrow money. Our nation remains involved in two wars in distant lands.

Our government is borrowing money in numbers that weren’t even known just a few years ago. Millions, billions and now trillions. Water, global warming, food and energy seem like unsolvable problems.

Many in this nation and world are afraid of what the future may bring. 2009 brings a new and fresh start. With that New Year brings new hope.

I believe in hope. I have seen its power in the lives of those with insurmountable odds. I believe in prayer. It has worked in my life and in the lives of countless millions over the ages. I believe in leadership. People want to follow those who offer new ideas for old problems. I believe in this nation. It has the capacity to lead this world in returning to more stable and prosperous times.

Finally, I believe in people. People of all faiths, colors and nationalities. I believe in my friends and my family. I believe in you. Together, we can help make this coming year better for all that we touch.