It had been another whirlwind week and weekend for the Mayor. On Saturday, he had been to several events, all of which were important, and the fact that there is more good stuff going on than he could ever possibly attend is proof positive that Athens is indeed a blessed town.
We talked about the fact that we are coming up on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and how that day changed everything forever for the United States of America. “There are ways I think we are more vulnerable today than we were then,” he said, and I agree. We are in the middle of the most vicious election cycle that either of us has ever remembered, and it appears that either way it goes, we are going to be polarized. It is going to be the job of whomever is elected to re-forge a genuine unity, and while that may not be possible on a national scale any time soon, there is proof that it is definitely occurring in our fair city.
On Saturday, August 27th, Athenians of every color came together for an event called “Unity in the Community.” It was organized by Jan Matthews, and featured as the keynote a Christian hip hop artist by the name of Canton Jones out of Atlanta.
Mr. Jones’ message was as refreshing as it was timeless, and the Mayor said the music was powerful. Mayor Ronnie stood at the back of the room and took it all in as a private citizen rather than an attending public official, soaking up every word. Canton’s message was simple: take responsibility for your own actions, forgive no matter what has been done to you, and get up and do something to make the world around you a better place to live.
I thought about the huge difference it makes when you are motivated to change things out of forgiveness rather than grievance. It’s not that grievances don’t occur; we are indeed promised that offenses will come, but a state of permanent grievance pales in power to accomplish anything when compared to the power of forgiveness. We took a few minutes to go to www.cantonjones.net and see his 5-minute video on forgiveness.
Canton made a long list of offenses that had been committed against him, and it was detailed. He then realized that the chances of anyone coming to him to repent were getting slimmer by the day, so he just decided to forgive, because the burden of unforgiveness was too great to bear, and it made him dependent upon others for his worth. Then he decided to forgive himself, which wasn’t so easy, either. He tore up his list and decided to walk in his purpose.
At the end of Canton’s message, he invited people up to the front of the Limestone County Event Center to what was essentially an altar call, with one of the purposes being to cross a specific line in the sand: choosing to do everything possible to build unity in the community. Mayor Ronnie said that at least 100 people, including himself, went forward, and it was moving. “It starts with each one, and needs to be everyone,” he said.
We then marveled that the Mayor’s Youth Commission is now going to begin its 5th year. “Some of those kids from the first years have graduated from college,” he said, and he still hears from them. He likes to think that the MYC is involved in “making butterflies.” He talked about how churches, service groups and businesses have come together in a way that was not seen when he was a boy here, and all of it to build Athens.
So, we spent a good part of our prayer time thanking God for what he has done, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner