A true American story is hard to come by

Jim Lee

Well, here we are in the second half of 2003. It just doesn’t seem possible. It feels like New Year’s Day happened around last week, and now we’re closer to 2004 than 2002.
It makes me stop and realize that, other than just one day, birthdays are always less than a year away. So I stopped at 39 like Jack Benny and haven’t had a birthday in nearly 20 years. I suppose that makes me prematurely gray. Oh well, I just call it a unique shade of blond. No vanity here, friends and neighbors.
This brings to mind a special neighbor of ours. There is definitely no vanity with her. She doesn’t lie about her age. As a matter of fact, she says she brags about it. Joyce Seefeld recently turned 90. One afternoon she dropped by to chat with Saundra and me. The purpose of her visit was to invite us to her birthday party at the Fellowship Hall of University Baptist Church here in Portales.
When we arrived at the Fellowship Hall, we noticed a large group of nice people. A number of Joyce’s relatives were there, but most present were her friends. To see how many people care about a person is really something special. This fine lady has touched many lives over the years. Her son and her nephew gave their tributes. So did her best friend of about 70 years or so.
Listening to the stories that have obviously been part of the family for decades made me think about the heroism in the so-called ordinary. Joyce’s life is a saga of the all-American life. Joyce survived obstacles with smiles and shouldered burdens with the heroic optimism of a person who has the character to recognize her blessings in the midst of difficulties.
She came to New Mexico as a child with her family in a covered wagon. They carved out a life through hard work, faith, and a sense of humor. They didn’t become famous or wildly wealthy (at least not in the material sense), so they may seem really ordinary to people who see things that way. But her story is a truly American story, a story of good, decent people who made a life without hurting or cheating anybody else.
They knew how to create happiness and to share it with others. And Joyce is still doing that. I know because I have seen her smile and have heard her laugh as her face lights up with amusement. I have also seen her out-walk everybody else in the neighborhood.
So-called “ordinary” Americans only seem ordinary because they don’t try to draw attention to themselves. They just work hard, treat others with kindness and decency, and spread happiness.
There is nothing ordinary about that, my friends. And there is nothing ordinary about our special neighbor.
Happy birthday, Joyce.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: