IF THE HAT FITS: Slowing down and giving thanks this week

Nov. 26—It's Thanksgiving Week, so I thought that I'd tell you all a little about some of the things that I'm thankful for this year.

Of course, first and foremost, I'm thankful to be here with my family, friends, and loved ones. It's been a hard year for my family and some of those closest to me. We've lost a lot of great people this year, but I know they'll still be with us in our hearts as we gather around the table for fellowship this week and into the holiday season.

Next, I'm thankful to be in this job. It's a dream come true to be the sports editor at my hometown newspaper, and I've loved every minute of it. Yes, even the super stressful times that make me want to pull my hair out. I work with an incredible, award-winning team, and love the little family we've built in this building.

I'm thankful for all our area players, coaches, and administrators. I'm only one guy covering a large swath of southeast Oklahoma. But I try to hit as many places as possible, and have met a lot of really great people along the way.

When local teams win, I get excited. When they fall, I feel that pain too. But I'm so incredibly thankful that I'm the one who gets the honor of telling your stories.

I've made so many new friends in this job, including the next thing I'm thankful for — you, our readers.

Thank you to everyone for reading my stories, checking out my photos, and sharing them with your family and friends.

Every compliment I get warms my heart, and I take every criticism under consideration. I always want to improve and be better than I was the day before, and you all help me with that.

I have one reader who writes me anonymous hand-written letters. I've been getting them since I've started in this job. The letters are always filled with both the best praise and any valid critiques they may have. But I smile every time I get that envelope, so thank you, "Ole Coach and Player." You have made a bigger impact than I think you know.

There are also people like my sweet next door neighbor, who is the biggest sports fan I think I've ever met. She always greets me when we see each other, and our conversations usually involve McAlester athletics or the Oklahoma City Thunder. But she also tells me she reads everything I write, and that alone means so much.

Those are just a few examples of why I'm grateful to be in this job. Because it's not just a paycheck. I live in this community, I care about this community — and I do this for this community.

Being your sports editor means the world to me, and I'm forever thankful for the blessings it has brought me.

Contact Derek Hatridge at dhatridge@mcalesternews.com.