As we sat down over coffee in the conference room to prepare this segment, Mayor Ronnie, ever the “glass-half-full” kind of guy, cheerfully told me that, “You know folks are reading this column when they come up and say, Ali doesn’t follow football, does she?” Momentarily puzzled, I looked at him as he explained that I had referred to former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw as having played for the Packers in our last article. Oy! I knew that! So, may I apologize to Steelers fans everywhere, and thank you all for catching that gaffe. Hopefully, in the great scheme of things, there will be no flag thrown on that play.
We talked about several items, both global and local, including the fact that it has been estimated that there were approximately three times more people who attended this year’s Vets’ Parade than in years past. That is a good thing, and we need to keep going. At that point, I was the one who needed to be more “glass-half-full,” as I was bemoaning what seemed to me to be an appalling lack of attendance. I decided to change my perspective, given the fact that he attended many Veterans’ Day events, some of the best being held at the high schools, and as a vet he felt our vets were duly honored.
We talked about the death toll from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and to no surprise to me, the Mayor told me that he had mentioned to Sandra, his wife, that he wished he could go over and help. Vets who have seen combat, and, quite frankly, bodies, seem to have a certain strength when it comes to dealing with large scale catastrophes. I observed that first hand while in Iraq, and when retired vets who were contractors were trying to find a way to go to India to help with clean up and aid after the 2005 tsunami that killed upwards of 250,000 people.
On a local level, and as a grandfather of middle school granddaughters, he was disturbed about the fact that North Alabama is part of a trifecta of a human trafficking organization involving teen agers, drugs and prostitution. He wants to urge anyone that “sees something to say something.” Amen to that. The human trafficking in Dubai was so bad that every time I went through, workers from India, Nepal and the Philippines would beg me to get them out. May this tragedy not happen on our watch in Athens.
Now, regarding Chapter 8, “How To Be At Home In The World,” the most important ingredient is caring. Caring can be about anything from a well kept yard or landscaping on a busy street to sacrificing one’s time and money to go on a missions trip. Other qualities include selflessness, courage, and patience. These are what distinguishes a community from a city, “and we have a lot of those qualities in Athens,” he said.
“We need to think through plans and not just fly at the speed of technology,” he added, and mentioned that he knew of an old college professor who said, “Don’t forget to breathe”—certainly good advice during the holidays. At the end of the interview, he summed up “Being at home in the world” as being a true fan of doing the right thing. “That’s what needs to get us up in the morning,” he said, and I believe on a daily basis that is some of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner