Thanksgiving column revisited

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2007

Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote about Zell Hudson. I didn’t know him then, but I appreciated him — and said so in the context of a Thanksgiving column.

I’ve since met Zell, and I appreciate him even more.

Six months ago, as I left Franklin’s Wal-Mart, an insurance card fell from my wallet. I didn’t realize it then — and probably wouldn’t have until my next visit to the dentist.

Zell, a greeter at the discount store, found my card, which contained only my name. The average retail employee, I suspect, would have turned the card over to management for placement in the “lost and found” bin. He would have done his job. And I would have had to order a new insurance card.

Zell, however, is far above average.

A Camptown native and longtime reader of The Tidewater News, Zell had seen my name and photograph in the newspaper. Though my name is a common one, he suspected the card was mine.

He took it home, penned a nice handwritten letter explaining how he came into possession of my insurance card, and, using his own stamp, mailed it to my attention at The Tidewater News.

Now that’s customer service. I was impressed.

Truth is, I’d been intending to write a column about Zell for months. My wife, with whom I’d shared the story, badgered me to write it, but I procrastinated. Every Friday morning — the time I set aside to write my Sunday column — something “newsier” came to mind.

Turns out, it’s appropriate that I waited.

Zell may have been born on Christmas Day, but Thanksgiving is his holiday. He is all about gratitude —from his daily conversations with his many customers to the license plate on his car.

It says simply, “THANKS.”

Zell, you might say, takes the “vanity” out of customized car tags.

He came to visit me a few days after my column was published to — what else? — say thanks.

Zell’s grateful for the little things and the big things in his life. From humble origins, he toiled faithfully as a career civil servant and carved out a comfortable working-class existence. He’s a self-made man who, refreshingly, gives little credit to himself. He’s too busy thanking others.

After retiring from civil service, Zell wanted to stay active, so he took a greeter’s job at Wal-Mart. If there’s a more fitting job for Zell, I can’t think of it.

Because of that job, and Zell’s extraordinary approach to it, I’ve made a new friend — one who, every time I see him, will inspire me to be more grateful.