AROUND THE REZ: Lou Johnson embodies the idea of a giving spirit

by Dec 15, 2017COMMUNITY sgadugi0 comments





With us being just a few days away from Christmas, the idea of a giving spirit is amplified this time of year.  There is no other person that personifies that spirit more on the Qualla Boundary (aka Cherokee Indian Reservation) than Janet “Lou” Johnson.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a text or a phone call from Lou asking me to advertise a benefit dinner that she is hosting for a person or family in need.  She does it out of the goodness of her heart.  She isn’t out for profit.  Her reward is helping people.  Her greatest reward is if her benefit can help ease the stress of bills during a hard time.

Lou also works in the front office of the Cherokee High School, a job that can be hectic more times than it isn’t, but a job that she truly loves.  She loves the kids.  She loves the school.  She loves the work, and she loves helping.

DEDICATED: Skooter McCoy (left), Cherokee Boys Club general manager, presents the Frell Owl Award to Janet “Lou” Johnson during the annual awards banquet held at the Chestnut Tree Inn on Dec. 21, 2016. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather)

Last year, she was recognized for her work by receiving the Frell Owl Award.  Lou was nominated for the award by Monica Wildcatt who wrote in her nomination form, “This wonderful lady has been the receptionist at CHS (Cherokee High School) for many years.  I would say she means more to the students than she knows.  She has the biggest heart around.”

Wildcatt’s nomination went on to state, “When children or families in our community have a financial need, she is more than willing to throw a benefit together at a moment’s notice…she puts their needs before her own.”

I’ve covered the Frell Owl Award presentations for years, and I always get a quote from the recipient at the end of the event.  Not this time…Johnson had to leave immediately after Skooter McCoy, Cherokee Boys Club general manager, presented her the award because she had to go back to the school to help set up for the Holidays on the Hardwood basketball tournament.  She simply told the crowd, “I have to leave and get back to the high school.  I’ve got a tournament going on.  I appreciate all of you.  Thank you all.”

And, she was gone…back to the school to help.  I’m sure they could have gotten it done without her, but for Lou, it was unacceptable for her to be at a banquet, eating, receiving a plaque, when there was work to be done at the school.  It is that sense of duty, a true sense of calling, that sets her apart.

The late Scottish poet and novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, once stated, “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”

Lou truly loves the people of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and everyone else she comes in contact with.  She is the true embodiment of the spirit of giving and a wonderful example to all of the rest of us.  Merry Christmas.