Severo Avila

Severo Avila is Features Editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

I enjoy sarcasm much more than most people do and I poke fun at people and things as a way of showing affection.

Having said that, I’m not blind to the light around me. I’m not oblivious to those people who are sweet and kind and who bring light to their surroundings.

There’s a Rome resident who I think epitomizes the kindness and warmth this holiday season is all about.

Kristen Fox Haynes (I tend to call a lot of women by their full Facebook names) is someone who truly makes our community a little brighter place to be.

I got to know Kristen as the wife of my on-again, off-again friend Joey. He’s the pastor at a local church and from time to time Joey and I annoy each other and I say very un-Christian things to him and then he forgives me and we become friends again.

Kristen is truly Joey’s better half. She’s a mother to their two kids, essentially the mother of their church and all that requires, and she also runs her own interior design business.

She always has the sweetest smile on her face, no matter what’s happening around her. She’s human just like all of us and I’m sure there are times that she’s frustrated, angry, disappointed and scared. But it’s like her heart is so full of joy that she never lets any of that stuff come through when she’s around you.

She pushes through. She smiles and says something positive and you feel like it truly will all be ok. I’ve seen her do it. I’ve seen her take stressful or dark situations and turn them around, never bringing down the people around her. She lifts herself and everyone else.

I think it’s sort of like magic. I don’t know how she does it. If I’m sad or scared or mad, it shows. Whether I want it to or not, it shows. And that affects the people around me. But Kristen has a wonderful ability to put people at ease and to comfort them no matter what she’s going through. And she’s right here in our town doing that every day.

Kristen’s also pretty busy running an interior design business. What I love about Kristen’s work is that she sees beauty in everything, even the common, humble and everyday things around us. A big part of what I love in the rooms and spaces she designs is that she often finds broken, unwanted or discarded pieces and incorporates them into her designs. She calls it “reimagining” and her business is called “Reimagine at Home.” She sees the potential in the most unlikely pieces and with a little patience, a little work and a lot of love, she brings out their beauty. And she pulls those pieces back into use and people love them again, seeing them in a way they never did before.

She’ll post photos on social media of these dirty and discarded pieces of furniture like an old bench or a broken table or a damaged lamp someone’s thrown out. Most people wouldn’t give them a second look. But Kristen seems something in them. And she “repurposes” pieces in ways you never thought they could be used.

I don’t want to get too philosophical on y’all, but I feel like whether she knows it or not, Kristen’s giving us a lesson on seeing the beauty and the potential in things and in PEOPLE — being patient and kind and offering them love instead of just throwing them away.

Especially this time of year when we focus a lot on family and on togetherness and giving, maybe we can look at our community through Kristen’s eyes and we can see the potential and the beauty in people, even the broken ones or the ones that seem a little out of place. Kristen would probably say there’s a place for us all, we just have to find the right spot where we can do the most good.

Recently she’s been posting photos on social media of mantles she’s been asked to decorate for Christmas. I guess some people just have a knack for decorating and some of us don’t cause I look at how beautiful these homes are and I would never have thought to use that piece or that color or that arrangement.

I’ve seen Kristen’s work first-hand. Her eyes light up at the most plain and uninspiring spaces. She already sees the beauty that COULD be there. She sees how she can turn this tiny corner of Rome into something so pleasing and enjoyable. And she’s doing that in homes all around town.

Every time I think about Kristen I remind myself to be a little nicer. She doesn’t know it but she reminds me to smile. She reminds me to be a little more gentle and a little more kind and a little more positive. I need a lot of help with those things but I have a constant reminder to be a little better.

Whether you know Kristen or not, at least now you know that there’s one more person in Rome who’s counteracting all the negative and hateful things that may be floating around in the world. There’s one more person who’s bringing beauty and light to the people and places around her.

I hope one day you get a chance to meet Kristen. You might see her at the store with her kids. You might find her at the Church at Rome. You might find her on social media or you might even be lucky enough to have her decorate some part of your home.

However you encounter her, know that she is one of those people who makes our community a brighter, better place to live.


Severo Avila is features editor for the Rome News-Tribune