Fillmaker Sheldon Candis

Fillmaker Sheldon Candis: “We’re all going after the endgame, but it’s about you being about to navigate the journey and survive the journey that makes you a successful person,” he says. “It is a very, very tough journey.” (Courtesy of Bill Gray / May 2, 2011)

This time of year, "thankfulness" and "gratitude" are terms folks throw around so much that they almost become greeting card platitudes.

Maybe people mean it, maybe they don't.

Doctors have linked the concept of gratitude to inner peace, even physical well-being. It's at least true that there are people quietly living with real thankfulness, though they might not use that word. It's just life lived, something that warms them from the inside and maybe helps them sleep through the night.

These are the stories of five people like that in Baltimore. They've all overcome challenges and tasted personal triumph.

These men and women, show Thanksgiving is sweet, personal and real, maybe even a way of life.

Angel Carpenter, 92Q radio personality

Angel Carpenter didn't know little girls weren't supposed to to go to sleep at night with no parents in the house. Or see junkies shooting up. Or to be having sex as young as 9.

That's just how it was growing up in Lafayette Courts, an eastside public housing development. Carpenter's father was gone, her mother addicted to drugs and largely preoccupied with finding them, her older brothers fending for themselves.

"It was kind of just me," she says. "On my own."

Though her mother was an addict — a fact she corroborates — she gave Carpenter one thing to hold on to: Only the strong survive. Carpenter took it to heart, steeling herself to get to school most days, pass her classes and step around the junkies in the Lafayette Court hallways.

Her friends' families let her stay over sometimes and made sure she occasionally got a good meal. She sold candy at school to have some money in her pocket. Teachers saw her potential and also tried to help.

Despite her given name, Carpenter was no angel. She got suspended. She stole. But she steered clear of real trouble and, as she puts it, did what she needed to do: "I got things done."

"There were no opportunities there just sitting waiting for you to grab ahold of," she says. "But I always knew I wasn't going to stay here in the Lafayette projects forever. I wanted to get out and be that example. So people would say, 'Hey, look at Angel. She did it. I could do it, too.' "

Carpenter says that by the time she hit her teens, her mother had straightened out her life. Part of what helped her do it was seeing how well her daughter had managed on her own.

Carpenter got into Howard University, graduating with honors in 2006. She started in radio right out of school, worked her way up, and now, at 27, she's known in Baltimore as AngelBaby, an on-air personality at Baltimore's 92Q.

She just founded an organization called Urban Artemis to help empower young women in Baltimore.

"It's for the same young girls who are a victim of their circumstances," she says. "To show them how not to be."

City Councilman Nick J. Mosby

Nick Mosby remembers the night Kurt Schmoke was elected mayor. It was 1987, and Mosby was years away from being eligible to vote, but he can picture the candidate's red, green and black campaign materials and how it seemed like a party at home as his mother watched the results, realizing her city had, for the first time, elected a black mayor.