Our View: Jeannie Null inspires citizenship

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Jeannie Null is the inspiratiion behind building an all-inclusive playground at Northeast Recreation Park.

Drop a pebble in a pond and the concentric circles push out wider and wider, making an impact across that pond far beyond that initial splash.

The Meridian Star’s choice for Citizen of the Year, 14-year-old Jeannie Null, has had that type of impact on this community.

If you spent any moment this week at Meridian’s Northeast Recreation Park, you would have spotted doctors, lawyers, bankers, carpenters, sales reps, mechanics, laborers, teachers, students, moms, dads, children and most any subset of the population that you might name working side-by-side to build an all-inclusive playground in Jeannie’s name.

Before the hundreds of volunteers began their work this week – rain teeming down and mud eclipsing their feet – there were students donating loose change, Lamar students Jake Davidson and William Lamar raising $145,000 (to date), businesses and philanthropic groups providing grants and elected leaders agreeing to approve the project and funding.

And before that there was the realization by Jeannie’s family that, although she had won a Hummer ride to play at Planet Playground, a girl with disabilities like Jeannie’s couldn’t play there. That set in motion an effort to build a playground where everyone could play.

And before that there was Jeannie, who suffered an in utero stroke that resulted in countless seizures, numerous surgeries and a life confronted by man-made barriers that kept her from places such as playgrounds.

But Jeannie wouldn’t settle for a victim’s status. She was born with attributes that not everyone possesses – an infectious smile, a contagious laugh, a can-do attitude and an inspiring spirit.

Spend much time in these parts of Mississippi and you realize the negativity can be as thick as the mud that covered the playground worksite this week. Good ideas are frequently blocked by responses stating all the reasons we shouldn’t move forward.

That hasn’t been the case with Jeannie’s Place at Planet Playground. Those concentric circles have pushed the negativity away and allowed the community to work toward a common goal, a better community.

Jeannie’s smile has made us all realize we have more in common than the differences among us.

Jeannie is the youngest person to be named Citizen of the Year and we are pleased that young people propelled the Jeannie’s Place project. That bodes well for the future of this community.

Finally, Jeannie is an example of how one person can make a difference. Influence can come from any one of us.

We salute our Citizen of the Year, Jeannie Null. May the circles of your inspiration ripple onward.

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