November 22, 1994
By Paul South
The Virginian-Pilot

In the movie "White Christmas", Bing Crosby sang a song appropriate for this Thanksgiving week called "Counting Your Blessings.

"When you're worried, and you can't sleep,
Just count your blessings instead of sheep,
and you'll fall asleep, counting your blessings."

Granted, Irving Berlin's lyrics may be a bit too sugary for some in today's cynical world. But we do have much to be thankful for, particularly in the wake of what could have been if Hurricane Gordon had kept on coming to the Outer Banks. Fortunately, the one-eyed monster blinked. And turned away. That was my first hurricane, and looking back over the past year, I know that Providence has smiled on me. I am thankful for my family and friends back in Alabama and elsewhere. I am thankful for the memories of those who have gone on, and for the unseen gifts they left behind. But in this year of tremendous change for me, I am particularly thankful for the friendship of one person.

His name is Mike D'Orso.

Mike's name may be familiar to those of you who kindly decide to read our paper every day. You may know that Mike has written several books, and won a number of awards for his work as a journalist. And if you read his work, you will know a bit of his heart. I met Mike four years ago, at a birthday dinner for former Alabama Congressman Carl Elliott. Mike was in Jasper, working with Mr. Elliott on the congressman's autobiography for Doubleday. After introductions, Mike said, "I've read your work. You should apply at our paper. At first, I thought it was a case of a big-time journalist being kind to a small-town reporter. But over the next several months, he continued to encourage me to move on from a small paper to The Virginian-Pilot.

While Mike was in Jasper, we became good friends. We argued politics and religion, and whether Magic or Michael was the better basketball player. At first, I was impressed because Mike worked for a big paper, had written books and knew Jackie Kennedy personally. Over time, I came to know him as more than an author with ties to the jet set. This was a good person. And for the next four years, he was a friend who listened every time a family crisis reared its ugly head, every time the grind of work and law school became too much, and every time the ever-growing list of unrequited loves got a little longer. Two years ago, there was another dinner for Mr. Elliott. It was a less than happy time for me. My grandmother had begun the long slide down through Alzheimer's disease. I was ready to walk away from journalism, even unsure that I wanted to practice law. I was depressed, weary, and in the midst of a full-blown crisis of the heart.

"You've got a world of ability, Mike said. "And you can do great things. Your problem is, you don't believe in your own abilities. You ought to see yourself as other people see you. Don't throw away your gift."

Now, Mike has had more than his share of hurts in his life. And it would have been easy enough for him not to give the time of day to a wannabe from a small paper. But he cared. And because the Good Lord saw fit to send Mike D'Orso my way, I work with and for some fine and gifted people, in one of the world's most beautiful places, for one of the country's best newspapers. Those are blessings enough for a lifetime of counting.

Thanks, Mike.

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.