By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It was a rare Monday morning indeed, as neither one of us was in “zoom” mode. It gave us time to really savor the wisdom in the book that is the title of this series, The Amazing City. Mayor Ronnie started off our time together with confidently stating, “Athens is an amazing city.” “Amen,” I replied, and added, “That’s why we live here.”
We reflected on the upcoming January 20th Martin Luther King Day celebration, the march which ends up at the Limestone County Event Center and the annual service at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church. One of the best parts is the fact that while for several years there have been essays presented by local students, in recent years an art contest has been folded in to the celebration, and the winners will be announced soon. This was a perfect segue for one of the statements from the book, found on page 93, where author James Hunt states: “I am a believer in public art as a component to building an Amazing City. Public art gives a city a fun and lively feel, and gives residents and visitors alike a place to gather.” Thankfully, we have many residents who agree and who have worked hard to get the arts into our lives more often.
Another quote is, “A positive attitude will take your city from great to Amazing!” At the risk of sounding too “fluffy,” i.e. making sweet sayings that don’t have much substance, that statement was qualified well by the mandate to work together to bring some depth as well as safety: “Amazing Cities are epicenters of positive connectivity. It’s a place where family, work, friends, faith and wellness all form a safety web of inclusiveness.” What is inclusiveness, outside of social engineering, which never works? It is the internalized and volitional commitment to making a city where voices are heard and celebrations occur often, but more importantly, owning who we are, our values and our vision. On a city and county level, it is showing that “local government can be the context for creative approaches to these challenges, and that truly good local leadership can build communities where we can all be our best selves.”
Mayor Ronnie then told me about a class at Spark Academy collecting 39 lbs of pop-tops from soda cans and donating them to the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, so kids and their families can stay for free at a beautiful facility while the children are getting treatment for cancer. What prompted the project is that one of their classmates has cancer and is being treated at St. Jude Hospital, and they wanted to do something to make a difference.
Lastly, Mayor Ronnie wanted to remind everyone of the importance of participating in the census, and that there are jobs available for census takers. “A census year can be a real opportunity to build inclusiveness,” he said. Then it was finally time to go, so we did our thing and prayed for Athens and her mayor, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner