- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) - Hurricane Katrina took away the structures of many communities across South Mississippi when it came ashore more than 10 years ago.

After the storm, the Waveland Wal-Mart served as more than a store — it was a meeting place for residents who came to get necessities, catch up with friends and swap stories.

And people greeter Madeline Miller was there to hear those stories and see those faces who came into the store — which immediately after the storm was set up in huge tents in the parking lot.

For Christmas 2005, Miller wanted to give her customers something special when she greeted them at the entrance.

“You want to do something, but none of us had a lot money. None of us had a lot of anything,” she said. “I thought I’d give out cards to people I saw all the time.”

She quickly went through her box of holiday cards, and bought another.

The next year, she did again. And she’s kept it up every year since Katrina.

Now, she hands out the cards to both familiar and new faces.

“Some of them, I see for the first time. Some of them, I see three or four times a week,” she said. “I’m in a good place where I can see people, and I can hand out cards and make a little difference.”

Last year, she handed out 363 cards. She may surpass that this holiday season.

She starts handing them out in early December.

She keeps the greeting short and sweet, because the message in the card, she said, is not as important as the actual card exchange.

“I put it in their hands . You touch somebody for just a moment — there’s just a little connection with another person for a moment — and it is just amazing. It really is.

“If they smile at me, that’s the best thing in the world, and it’s addicting. You look forward to that blessing.”

Miller has been with Wal-Mart for more than 30 years, and she said she’ll continue to hand out cards as long as she’s able.

“It wasn’t until after Katrina that things seemed so bleak,” she said. “I was like everybody else — kind of oblivious to the good fortune we had — you realize it’s not the stuff you have that makes your life a blessing. It’s the people around you. I’ve kept that feeling since then, and I hope I never lose it.”

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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