It’s been a year since our last round of killer storms rampaged through our county, claiming two lives. As is always the case, the storm brought out the best in us, and we quickly rallied together to begin rebuilding. One of the toughest parts of a storm is when churches get destroyed, but that is also often the site of some of the most extravagant outpouring of God’s grace, as people work not so much to restore a building, but the community it serves.
Mayor Ronnie was asked to speak at Clements Baptist church at their April 26th morning service, and the new sanctuary was dedicated to God as a place for the congregation to treasure His presence. The Mayor told me about the theme that kept re-emerging, the challenge to “Do Something.” The term “do something” was seen on placards held up by kids, but rather than be a call to action for action’s sake, it had far more to do with the state of one’s heart, and his favorite placard simply said, “Celebrate.”
He was just home from Corpus Christi, TX, where a number of representatives from municipalities throughout the Southeast gathered together to hear about each other’s challenges, triumphs, and innovative ways of solving serious problems. The Mayor of Brownwood, TX talked about a lake in their area that dropped 19 feet, and they were in trouble. While it understandably does not appeal to our sensibilities, Brownwood is now using what is known as “effluent” water, a term that is usually used to describe sewage flowing untreated out into a bay.
While effluent water is obviously not for human consumption, more and more drought stricken areas are using it to irrigate crops. More than likely we will not face the need to do the same with our crops grown in North Alabama, but what spoke to the Mayor was the humorous way the speaker approached the discussion of Brownwood’s dilemma, and the ingenuity of the solution.
From a motivational perspective, his favorite speaker from the conference talked about the “3 Cs”, “culture, communication and collaboration.” These are qualities that, when utilized synergistically, function as the glue that not only holds a community together in times of crisis, but cause it to become stronger, and to grow. Working backwards in order to illustrate the speaker’s point, Mayor Ronnie talked about the fact that he received a framed certificate from Clements Baptist Church for the way he collaborated with other responders to help the stricken congregants regain their footing. He was careful to note that without the help of many others in the aftermath of the storm, Clements would not have recovered so quickly.
Communication could be a standalone topic, especially given its role in an emergency situation, but on a regular basis, really understanding what is being said through communication, human and technological, can save lives. Mayor Ronnie called Amy Golden of Athens Utilities up to the conference room to show me how the Department’s software can pinpoint outages in our area, and speed up restoration of service. We also talked about what a difference Nixle and the Smartboards have made in Athens.
“Culture” was the topic where we “stayed before we prayed.” The speaker asked the simple question, “What do you want your community to look like?” The big picture is simple, as all of us want our community to be a place of love, values, hard work, fun, opportunities, family and personal wholeness, faith, and justice. Memorial Day is coming up, and in 3 more years, our city will be celebrating its 200th anniversary. It’s “getting there” as a city that is always the challenge before a mayor, as well as everyone he serves. What he learned was that “culture is not re-defined, but built upon, and developed.” In other words, it is important to “let the story be the story,” or just “tell it like it is,” whether it’s the history of a people, or a celebration of a triumph over a twister that tried to kill a people. Then it was time to “pray-n-roll”, and we were each off once again to our respective next adventure.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner