It is time for our kids to head back to school, and Mayor Ronnie was full of thoughts about the year ahead. Both of us have spent time in the classroom as teachers, and have no end of respect for the job our teachers are being called upon to do, as well as the sacrifices they make. Though it’s not easy to discuss, we agreed that teachers have to function far more as parents than was the case when we were kids, or, for that matter, when we were teaching.
We have another new dilemma. We have some kids who are hungry, and a number of kids who are overfed and undernourished. We have parents who are scrambling to make ends meet. However, there is some good news, coming from Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges. He and a man named Billy Shore have teamed up in a non-profit organization called No Kid Hungry, and are working from the private sector to deal with both issues: food insecurity and obesity. Strangely, some of the states that have the highest childhood obesity issues are also the ones with the highest levels of food insecurity.
What Jeff is particularly focused on is the importance of breakfast for kids. He said, “It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’re talking about brain food, man!” He actually goes to the schools himself to serve the kids, and No Kid Hungry is making a difference all across the nation.
No doubt it is tough to believe in dreams when you are hungry, but we were later blessed to hear about a man who worked hard through the lean times, became successful, and came back home to Athens with the purpose of helping adults and kids alike dream. Legendary country songwriter Roger Murrah was at the High Cotton Art Incubator on August 3rd, along with his sister and brother-in-law, and he has given our town a special gift.
While it took the whole Murrah family chopping cotton in order to survive, Roger’s dad traded a truck for a 1929 Howard upright piano so his kids could have a chance to discover music. Because of the strength of their family and faith, the kids never had the sense of being poor. They would make music by the hour after the chores were done, and we got to hear some of it live. Appropriately, the song they sang was “High Cotton,” and the Murrah family piano is on loan to High Cotton Arts.
Mayor Ronnie mentioned at High Cotton that he understood as a former public school educator the enormous pressure teachers are under, and expressed his support, prayers and wishes for teachers, kids, parents and the community to have a great school year.
Mayor Ronnie said Murrah’s announcement to support local arts and the programs for children offered by High Cotton Arts cultivate the dreams of our children. He said adults can encourage children to reach their dreams, or they can kill those dreams quickly. Murrah’s endeavors along with High Cotton Arts are providing that encouragement.
I asked if kids were going to be allowed to gently play the piano as it “lives” in the Art Incubator, and Roger’s sister Tina seemed to think that was a good idea. We’ll see what they decide, but in the mean time, we are blessed to be in “High Cotton,” and it is time for all of us to roll!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner