Except for a few Scrooges who want to get a jump on ruining Christmas, Thanksgiving is a time for most of us to respectfully acknowledge family, good friends, fellowship and other personal blessings, however few or many those might be. Besides the intimate blessings each of our cherished readers marks in prayer or glad conversation, those of us who live in the Waco area have many community blessings worth celebrating. While this has not been an easy year — consider, for instance, the Twin Peaks bloodshed — it nonetheless behooves us to recognize our good fortune.
Whether you credit God, Providence or climatological dynamics, one must recognize the weather. Yes, we had a torrid summer, but it was sandwiched between a wet spring and a wet autumn. By Thanksgiving week, Waco saw nearly 47 inches total to date — definitely a blessing when one considers that our average to date is just over 30 inches. This is the seventh-wettest year on record.
Our economy blossomed, particularly in terms of spending, job growth and home sales. Markers include an explosion in retail development with new stores such as Five Below, World Market, Haverty’s and a Cavendar’s Boot City. “Restaurant row” along Interstate 35 has seen dynamic growth. And the opening last month of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market at the Silos has added not only to commercial activity in that South Waco neighborhood near downtown but boosted overall tourism, spurred by the Gaineses’ popular HGTV home-restoration show, “Fixer Upper.”
We’re thrilled at feats by the Waco Animal Shelter, animal welfare groups and Animal Birth Control Clinic in fighting the Waco area’s once-shameful problem of stray and unwanted dogs and cats. Between 2012 and 2015, annual euthanasia cases dropped from 6,013 to 939. Intake dropped from 10,328 to 5,993, while rescues and adoptions have increased from 2,988 to 4,390. The city also has worked with the Animal Birth Control Clinic to increase low-cost spay-neuter operations from 10,908 to 13,507 during that period.
And how can one not be thankful for the collective efforts that finally prompted President Obama to designate the Waco Mammoth Site a national monument, highlighting a partnership raising some $4 million in private funds for the site (with local philanthropists Paul and Jane Meyer matching the effort when fundraising reached $1.7 million); Baylor University’s work to study and showcase mammoth remains; and assistance from the ever-reliable, privately run National Parks Conservation Association, which made it possible for a delegation from Waco to sell their story to the White House when congressional gridlock failed everyone.
And against considerable odds in a toxic political environment, Waco Independent School District trustees, led by local attorney Pat Atkins, convinced our community to go to the polls and approve a tax hike, primarily based on the strength of Waco ISD plans that will spend not a new penny on administration but invest in classrooms to improve reading scores in primary grades; aggressively target discipline problems (with parents being held accountable for their wayward kids); and bolster dual-credit college courses with help from McLennan Community College.
And for all the naysayers, Prosper Waco — even in its early stages — is making tremendous strides with dozens of business leaders, educators and health officials in battling poverty through such worthy projects as a community loan bank to battle predatory lending and financial literacy courses. All of which makes us even more excited about 2016.
Indeed, while some skeptics readily acknowledge the failings and misfires of any year, good fortune endures. Exhibit No. 1: Baylor Bears third stringer Chris Johnson throwing two touchdown passes and running another to help close out the Bears’ 45-35 win over No. 4 Oklahoma State last Saturday. Blessings abound!