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Contentment Comes Despite Challenges
By Cathy Spaulding, Phoenix Staff Writer
(C) July 2007, Muskogee Phoenix

As Charlene Pickett gets new carpet laid throughout her house, she laughs about having "boxes here and boxes there."

"It's like Christmas every day," she says with a broad, white smile. "It's what I find in these boxes. It's a surprise every time. I will have been here 41 years in August and I'm finding all sorts of things."

Pickett, 64, keeps a smile and giving heart through even the most trying circumstances, said her friend, Mary K. Isaacs. One of those trying circumstances is macular degeneration, which has afflicted Pickett since childhood.

That's why Isaacs nominated Pickett to exemplify the Muskogee Character Council's July quality of contentment. Pickett will be recognized at the July 23 Muskogee City Council meeting.

"She always has a smile ready, a contagious laugh and a terrific sense of humor," Isaacs said in her nomination. "Charlene is an inspiration of contentment and compassion to me."

Pickett laughs at being nominated.

"I just never thought anyone would pick me for something like that," she says. "It's just a surprise."

Pickett defines contentment as "being happy with your circumstances and feeling good about the situation you're in."

She says she does feel content and she can say why.

"I always feel like the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want," she said. "He's with me and He treats me good every day."

Yet, not everything is roses.

"I'll be the first to say that if someone says ~I'm always content,' I'll tell them candidly that they're crazy," she said.

Through her life, Pickett has faced many challenges to her feeling of contentment.

"It started when I was 8, which is rare for it to strike someone so young," she says. "My mother saw when I was in second grade that I wasn't seeing as well as I should."

No one could diagnose why until Pickett was taken to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The family lived in Gallup, N.M., at the time.

"By the time I was 10, I went from public school to the New Mexico School for the Blind," she says.

She went on to the New Mexico Highland University. After getting married, she moved to Watertown, Mass., to attend Perkins School For the Blind, best known as Helen Kellerís alma mater. She and her husband moved to Oklahoma, where she got a job as teacherís aide at Oklahoma School for the Blind. She also earned a degree in sociology, with minors in music and home economics at Northeastern State University.

"That's when I started my family," says Pickett, who now has a daughter and granddaughter.

She also has gotten involved in all sorts of church and civic activities.

"Ms. Pickett volunteers extensively in our community," Isaacs said. "She is a member of the Red Hat Society, Civitan Club, New Friends, Eastern Star and First Baptist Church."

Pickett adds the Knife and Fork Club, and Musical Arts Association, for which she volunteers to make calls to remind people about meetings.

She says she enjoys them all, though the Red Hat Society generates her biggest smile. You can tell society members by their red hats and purple dresses. The nationwide society is geared to helping women over 50 have fun together.

And Pickett proudly gets out her red alligator-patterned hat.

"We're older ladies and we just have a hoot and holler and good times together," she says.

For example, earlier this week, the local Red Hat Society chapter celebrated Oklahoma's centennial with a party at Jasper's.

Pickett also plays piano for her Sunday school class and for friends. She said she especially likes Christian music such as hymns and gospel songs, as well as good old sing-along songs.

She also has samples of her embroidery displayed through the house. One framed piece, showing the Lordís Prayer, took almost a year to do, she says. She also sews blankets for friends and charitable projects.

One thing Pickett says she learned from her mother was self-sufficiency.

"Mama always told me she knew I was going to go blind," she says. "She let me do what I wanted to do, but told me I had to do it myself. That's when I started to embroider."

She says, however, she relies on that one source of her contentment.

"My favorite verse is ~Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet,'" she says. "The Lord reminds me of that every day."

On January 12, 2011, Charlene entered the heavenly presence of her Beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.