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Grace and kindness are never forgotten

In Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois, one of the play’s main characters, has a line that goes, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Last week, I depended on the kindness of a stranger.

I was assigned to cover the 154th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill last Saturday, an event I’d covered the year before, and like all good tech-saavy journalists (my co-workers can stop laughing now) I went to Google Maps to get the fastest route to the event. Saturday morning, I left home and headed to the Champion Hill M.B. Church between Edwards and Bolton.

The Google directions were quite good except for one thing. Like all computer directions they managed to leave out current information, like the fact Kansas City Southern was doing track repairs and the crossing on my road was blocked, forcing me to turn around and head back to Edwards.

I stopped at a convenience store in Edwards to seek another route to the ceremony. That’s when I ran into Louis Johnson, Edwards’ retired police chief. He began to give me directions then stopped. “I’ll take you out there,” he said. He got in to a car and took off with me in tow headed for Champion Hill. After a run over some bumpy county roads, we reached the site, only to find the event had been cancelled. I learned later the Champion Hill Heritage Foundation cancelled the observance out of concern for expected bad weather, the illness of one of the members, and, in a small part, the water crisis in Vicksburg, where some of the people planning to attend the observance were going to stay.

I have spent most of my almost 40-year career as a journalist working for dailies and weeklies in small towns. Outside of my home paper in Baton Rouge, The Advocate, I’ve never really been interested in working for a large paper, and I enjoy living in a small community where you know your neighbors, and can pickup the phone and call the mayor or your councilman or alderman with a problem and not have to deal with some bureaucrat.

Louis Johnson reminded me of that last Saturday. He didn’t know me from Adam, and could have easily given me directions and let me work my way to my destination, a trip that might have resulted in me getting lost and never reaching my destination.

Instead, he took his own personal time to help me, someone he didn’t know, get where he needed to go. Not only that, but he did something else that is very common in many small towns in the South. After I thanked him for his efforts and got his name, he gave me his cellphone number and an invitation, “Next time you’re over this way, give me a call.”

Thanks, chief, for your unselfish help and for restoring my faith in mankind.

John Surratt is a reporter with The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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