Mayor Ronnie is 69 years old, and I am 60. We often talk about how odd it is to be considered a senior citizen when, in many ways, we feel like we’re just getting started. The discussion on the effects of time, however, had nothing to do with our wrinkles or grey hair, but rather a sharp statement made in chapter 26 of Gary McCaleb’s book upon which this series is based. “No organization can maintain excellence without active renewing. Renewal is the antidote for obsolescence, decay and apathy.” Here McCaleb is quoting Bob Waterman, and goes on to say himself that our values, whether individually or corporately, are always subject to decay. The good news is that the decay can be overcome.
The backdrop for the points made in Chapter 26 was the city of Vienna, Austria. During the heyday of the Roman Empire, Vienna was born as a camp for its soldiers. It grew, even as the empire declined, and then in 1258 was all but destroyed by fire. Amazingly, there are still a few buildings from that time that are still standing. The city was rebuilt, or, if you will, “renewed,” and then a more horrific blow that lasted for years was struck against the soul of the city whose name means “from wine country.” Between the occupation of the Nazis and the bombs dropped on the city to stop them, roughly 40 % of the city was completely decimated, and the “renewal project” took decades.
When McCaleb visited Vienna, he wrote the following:
“After an extensive period of rebuilding and repairing, this city has once again risen out of the ashes and ruins. The people of Vienna refuse to accept defeat; they have overcome fire, wars, and economic depression. The majestic buildings of Vienna, old and new, stand as a monument to citizens who were determined to overcome any threats to their city and rise above them in the spirit of renewal.”
The same could be said for Athens. Much of it was destroyed during the Civil War, and its citizens have never stopped rebuilding. The “old and new” will stand side by side when the Trinity Project is completed, and that endeavor, as is the case with anything important, has had its own obstacles with which to contend. Its success will ultimately depend on a community that understands Trinity’s place in our history and the need to preserve its history.
So, what is actually involved in “active renewal?” “Find the good and praise it,” said Mayor Marks. He was quoting what is written on Alex Haley’s gravestone in Henning, TN, as well in McCaleb’s book, and then launched into what was essentially a sermon while I scribbled notes. “You don’t overlook problems,” he said, “You work them AND look for the good.” Renewal work comes in all kinds of forms, whether it’s in church, building the family, volunteerism, or by doing well the job for which you are being paid. “And,” he added, “You have to love your community.” Love for Athens, that is definitely some of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner