Rita Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Higher purpose occupies SP fan

Season tickets to South Panola High School football games are highly prized and downright hard to come by if you don’t already have them from the year before. It’s to the point now, with our team sporting a 72-game winning streak, about the only way to procure season tickets is to inherit them.

Every July the school starts selling the season package for the limited seats in the reserved section. You visit Jamie Hubbard who has a grid sheet showing where all the season ticket holders sat during the previous season. You don’t have the option of upgrading to a higher or lower location. You just renew the seats you had last year. And be glad you got ‘em.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

This arrangement means that, year after year, you have the same seat mates on Friday nights. And we are quite content with our little community of Tiger fans on row 19.

There’s our good friend  and vocal fan Bubba, who sits with his lovely wife and son right behind us. Flanking us on the left is the Bright entourage, and right in front of us, blocking the chilly wind, are the Marshalls. Seated near us is a charming young woman named Stephanie.

I get the impression that, while Stephanie enjoys being at these games, she has a higher purpose than watching football.

While the rest of us are sitting there admiring the talents of the young athletes on the football field, cheerleaders on the sidelines, and musicians in the band, Stephanie is actually using her talents, enthusiastically and heartily.

To every game Stephanie brings a canvas bag filled with supplies for her projects. There’s a thick coloring book and a gallon-size zipper bag filled with a rainbow of crayons. Other plastic bags hold pipe-cleaners covered with metallic fibers that shine like jewels under the stadium lights. Onto the pipe-cleaners she strings plastic beads from an assortment in another plastic bag.

Now you might imagine that Stephanie’s goal is to make bracelets to match every outfit she owns, or to color pretty pictures to hang in her room at home.

You’d be wrong.

Stephanie works hard making art projects to give away. Unobtrusively she inquires of those sitting around her if they’d like for her to color them a picture or make a bracelet.

If the person seems interested, she’ll customize her work.

“Do you like green?” she asked Sarah Dell.

When she determined that, indeed, Sarah Dell does like green, Stephanie carefully colored in the picture, tore it out of the book, and passed it down to its intended recipient, who seemed pleased to receive it.

But not as pleased as Stephanie. I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed more joy expressed in the act of giving. She fairly glowed when she finished a project and saw that it pleased the one for whom she’d made it.

She made a bracelet on a shiny blue pipe-cleaner for Laurie, who sat next to me. When I admired Laurie’s bracelet, Stephanie asked me if I wanted one.

“Oh, you don’t have to make me one,” I said.

“She’d love to,” her mother said.

So she did–mostly white beads with a few accent colors thrown in randomly: pink, orange, blue, green. It only took her a few minutes to make it. She passed it to me and watched to be sure I could manage to twist the pipe-cleaner to fasten it securely on my wrist.

I thanked her and saw the same joy on her face, a sweet face with a broad smile and eyes that danced with excitement and satisfaction in the giving.

There was a domino effect. Everyone seated around Stephanie could have had a bracelet. Just admire what she’d made for the person sitting next to you, and she’d make you one, too.

Rupert admired my bracelet and she asked him if he wanted one. I told her he probably wouldn’t wear it. Rupert’s funny like that, not really into wearing bracelets.

I believe, if the game had gone into overtime, she would have made jewelry for the whole row.

As I was admiring my gift the next day and thinking about Stephanie, it occurred to me that she personified what the Apostle Paul was describing in his letter to the Romans, in reference to spiritual gifts. He describes a number of spiritual gifts, such as teaching  and leading. Then he refers to the “gift” of giving, and how it is to be used: ”he who gives, with liberality…”.

In this season of thankfulness, I’m thankful to have witnessed one who gave so liberally and with such joy.

And I’m thankful for my new bracelet.

(Contact Rita at rita@panolian.com)