What Makes Ronnie Roll: Samuel Johnson And Keeping Friendships In Constant Repair

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Mayor Ronnie and I started off our time together talking about our area’s involvement in a number of Veterans Day celebrations, and compared notes as to our favorites. He had been the speaker at Monday’s VFW event, and while he doesn’t talk all that much about his time in Vietnam, he did emphasize the power of friendship, especially in combat or in natural disaster. “Disasters have a way of bringing us together,” and I nodded, having lived through a few of them myself.

While we have been producing a series based on chapters from Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift (and we will be returning to it), the lessons for this edition of Ronnie were gleaned from the life of Samuel Johnson, and were taken from William Bennett’s The Book Of Virtues. Mayor Ronnie had “re-discovered” Virtues, and showed me a copy that he had given to a church library in memory of his father. What had grabbed Ronnie was the dissertation on friendship, and we discussed the fact that sometimes people who struggle with substance abuse are fueled in part by not having many true friends. We moved seamlessly into reminiscing about Mayor Ronnie’s deep friendship with the late Jimmy Gill, who served with him for years on the Athens City Council. At times the two of them were like kids, trying hard not to egg each other on in meetings, and making sure they didn’t make eye contact lest they bust out laughing. I know Mayor Ronnie misses Jimmy greatly, and will forever be grateful for their friendship.

So, what of famed English writer, Samuel Johnson? There were many things Johnson said to illustrate this point, but here are two: “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” Samuel Johnson was a friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Johnson poignantly told Reynolds, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.” What both Ronnie and Jimmy had to do over the years was keep their friendship in constant repair. There were some things they had to work through, and they did. “We were friends,” said the mayor, and the simplicity of his statement spoke volumes. Who knew when their friendship began? Only one, and that was the One who made them both.

We talked about the things for which we are thankful, with Veterans Day just behind us and Thanksgiving ahead of us. Add in the 200th birthday of our fair berg, as well as the near completion of a beautiful high school, and there is great reason to have an attitude of gratitude. We needed to quickly get to the swearing in ceremony for the Limestone County Commissioners, so we prayed, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner