Givers We Love | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Givers We Love

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Micah Smith

When I was younger, Father's Day was sort of a "non-holiday" for me, like Flag Day or Arbor Day. You may have more reverence for those now, but when you're a kid, those days sort of come and go without much thought. While I love my dad and get along well with him, I have always been a terrible gift-giver.

Most years, my wife spends hours scouring the Internet for her dad's gift, trying to hit that perfect mark of both functional and thoughtful, and I typically end up scratching my head for gift ideas, saying, "Well, was the gift card I got my dad last year from Best Buy or Barnes & Noble?" But before you grab the pitchfork that you reserve for stabbing terrible sons, I should tell you a bit about my dad and why giving has always been about more than gifts for my family.

My dad and I share many things, including an eerily similar speaking voice, but he, unlike me, is an excellent gift-giver. In fact, he specifically picked out the two possessions I value most in the world—my electric guitar and my acoustic guitar—because each time, he thought, "That's something Micah would like." I'm sure I'm not the only person to receive an electric guitar for Christmas. I'm willing to bet that more than a few Jacksonians have instruments currently collecting dust. But my acoustic guitar is a different story.

Growing up, I had no shortage of instruments to piddle around on. My dad played drums all through college, so we had this great big set upstairs in what, at some point, transformed from a living room into my music room. Against one wall, we had a keyboard, which definitely hadn't aged quite as well as the drums, and against another we had a collection of guitars that my dad had amassed over the years.

I played around on drums, an instrument at which I'm currently decent, and I spent hours playing bass guitar, which I'm much better at, and days and days playing my dad's old Fender Mustang. I started my first band, which I won't name here out of embarrassment, with that guitar, even though it didn't sound particularly good. Or was it that I didn't sound good?

I also wrote some of my first songs on that guitar, which eventually inspired my dad to buy me my acoustic, which I still own and play regularly. That guitar only made me want to write music more, so I would sprawl out paper and chord charts in the music room and write.

My dad would walk up the stairs and ask me to play him something, and I would clam up and hide the yellow legal pad I'd been writing terrible lyrics on. And despite the fact that I would almost always turn him away without playing him my latest sure-fire hit, my dad would always walk up the stairs to hear what I was simultaneously proud and embarrassed about.

"You'll never have a bigger fan than me," he would say.

Now that I'm older, practicing guitar in the music room at my own house and hopefully writing better songs than I did at 14, my dad still says that, and I believe it. For most of my life, if I've told him I had a show, he would be there. If I told him that I was going into the studio, he would try to give me money, even if he didn't have that much to give. It's one of the best qualities about my dad.

Yes, he's a good gift-giver. First and foremost, though, he's a giver.

Whether it's his time or his support, my dad has always been the first to give both at a moment's notice. I can't even tell you how many times he's had to drop what he was doing to meet with someone struggling through a hard time. As I said, I'm terrible at giving gifts, which unfortunately is just how I'm wired, but that doesn't mean that I'm terrible at giving.

I appreciate the presents my dad has bought me in the past, of course, but when it comes down to it, I'd rather hang out with him. I'd rather thank him for showing me the kind of person I want to be. The kind that my family, my friends and my neighbors know they can rely on, whether they're facing a personal crisis or just need a couch moved from one room to the next.

Flipping through this issue, you'll find stories about "Guys We Love," many of whom have won awards for their work, earned accolades for their art or are just generally cool people. But if you've picked up a copy of the Jackson Free Press in the past, you know what topic is constantly on our minds. Hint: It's the first word of our name.

At its core, "Guys We Love" has always been a tribute to Jackson's givers, whether it's mixed martial arts trainer Marshall Thompson Jr. encouraging everyone who steps into his gym, gardener Felder Rushing cultivating a love of Mississippi's natural beauty, or hair stylist Brandon Young improving a person's day by improving their self-image. These men work toward enriching the lives of each Jacksonian they come in contact with in their treatment of and regard for others.

I realize that I'm luckier than some. The staff at the Jackson Free Press really cares about our city and actively works to help our neighbors. I get to spend my working days at a business that fosters positive change, so it's on my mind most of the day. Maybe you don't feel like your job places you in a position that affects Jackson. But I encourage you to read the articles in this issue, each written with the hope that it will enrich someone's life, and consider the ways that you can use your gifts to give back. We live in a great city, not because of what came before, but because of what the people here are doing today. I guarantee that Jackson will never have bigger fans than Jacksonians.

Micah Smith is the music editor of the Jackson Free Press. Email him at micah@jacksonfreepress.com.

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