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Simply Sanford
by Adele Azar-Rucquoi

Most things about Sanford fill me with joy. Each time Jim and I stroll downtown past clusters of welcoming shops, cozy and communal, we’re reminded of our good fortune at calling Sanford home. Our own award-winning writer Bill Belleville knows our town as simply “a place where they know your name.” My poet-photographer spouse, in his series of photo-paintings of our neighborhoods reduced the pull of the place to just two words: Simply Sanford.

One morning, as we headed downtown to savor a Sanford breakfast, the conversation about the town’s beauty had me pulling out my own pen to record familiar, lovable haunts. High on the list is the meandering St Johns broadening at our doorstep to become Lake Monroe, drawing walkers and bikers along its RiverWalk. When I’m taking that walk, I often feel a sense of untold well-being; you don’t have to be a millionaire here to live like one!

The second thing on that scrap paper is Mr. Sanford himself, police officer Billy Crapps, our town’s jovial bodyguard. You see him in his uniform strolling the avenue, exchanging pleasantries, you want to break out with “East Side, West Side, All Around the Town.” On Jim’s birthday at the Colonial restaurant recently, Officer Crapps came over to our table to applaud my husband. Interrupting my string of lavish tributes about Jim, Mr. Crapps looked over to Jim and asked jokingly: “Is she all there?” And, as if on cue, he grabbed our check: “Have this birthday breakfast on me!” Whoo Hoo! Ring those church bells.

Down the street another favorite hangout, Maya’s Books, with its boundless diversity of titles, classics, and posters, a real neighborhood hang out. Customers gather, talk books, talk elections, talk anything. I myself bothered Yvette (her real name) about training our new puppy. She’s also an inspiring caregiver. Got a problem? She’s with you. Sanford struck it rich when this small-town entrepreneur planted her books on 1st Street.

Walking further down, there was Beth, of Beth’s Friends. Beth had confidently borrowed capital to open her dream gallery for Florida artists. Local artists were featured: painters, photographers, sculptors, woodcarvers, jewelers all found a home. Beth’s dream however, was short lived: not only an unkind economy, but cancer took Beth to God only a few months ago. She’s terribly missed.

My community favorite? Saturday’s Grace and Grits breakfast. About 85 homeless men, women and children line up for plates loaded with eggs, pancakes, grits, sausage, and juice. Father Bob’s grace reminds us:”Thank you God for the holy privilege of serving these your servants, who at this time have lost their way.”

Recently at one breakfast, a young man approached me. “Is there any place that I could find money for a bus ticket to get to Pittsburgh. I have a house there.” I introduced Tom to Ernie Mander, our director, who took him under his wing and got that ticket. The story doesn’t end there.

We delighted in Tom’s email:

"Ernie: I arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon. My niece picked me up at the bus station. I got home early in the evening and everything is going well. I'm truly grateful for all your help and I'm blessed to know you. I would like to repay you for helping me or make some kind of contribution to your ministry. Please stay in touch, keep me in your prayers and thank you again for everything you've done. Be blessed. Tom"

Now that’s the kind of holy activity that flows from Sanford’s big heart.

My list that morning couldn’t find a stopping place . . . Saturday’s open Farmer’s Market, the Taste of Thyme eatery off the square, Angelo’s rare Sunday breakfasts with entertainment from Art & Gail, Rich & Sandy’s new welcoming St John’s Cycles, Jeanine Taylor’s unique Folk Art Gallery with host Mary and a bevy of storefront working artists.

My column finally stops here to mention the friendly team behind the paper you’re holding in your hands. The staff is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Sanford Herald which reminds us in its old subhead: “Sanford - Life is Worth Living!”

I call Sanford a healing place. It’s like coming home to a precious past richly stuffed with ancestors’ memories and yearnings, a place that deserves to be born again and again. Much could have died. Mysteriously and mercifully, the history and the joy live on!

--Meandering$: Where Spirit & Money Find Each Other, by Adele Azar-Rucquoi, The Sanford Herald, Sanford, FL, Dec 6, 2008

Noted Spiritual writer and motivational speaker, Adele Azar-Rucquoi is the author of "Money As Sacrament, Finding the Sacred in Money." In her weekly column at her hometown Florida newspaper, as in her talks and life-changing workshops, she helps women & men, wealthy & poor, uncover a holy and healthy relationship with themselves and with their money.

Published: Dec 12,2008 06:57
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