What Makes Ronnie Roll: The Traveler’s Gift And The “Listening Heart”

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

As I pulled up to City Hall, my heart felt quenched in the sense of sadly having been smothered at the sight of the flags at half-mast. They had been ordered to that position by President Trump in the aftermath of the gunning down of 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life (L’Simcha) Synagogue. Once Mayor Ronnie arrived, we cast about, trying to make sense of it. The current irony is that a Jewish doctor treated the wounds of the shooter who was wounded in the process of murdering Jews in cold blood. It took awhile for any thoughts to form, but seeing as we are doing a series from The Traveler’s Gift, it seemed appropriate to draw from the chapter in the book that personified Israel’s King Solomon, still considered to be the wisest man on earth. The second of the decisions that David Ponder, the time traveler in the book, is encouraged to make is to seek wisdom.

One of Solomon’s prayers was, “Give to your servant a listening heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad.” The mayor thought for a moment and said, “We need to cultivate a listening heart in this country.” I nodded in agreement. The mayor also agreed that we in Athens had been given an uncommon opportunity to do just that, and hopefully sow Solomon’s “wise seeds” into our kids, specifically those who signed up for this year’s Mayor’s Youth Commission. The MYC is in its sixth year, and Athens-Limestone has been blessed by the efforts of other local entities who are also involved in similar projects, specifically the Sheriff’s Department’s program for at-risk kids, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership Program. The need to invest in our kids has resulted in five other Alabama mayors coming to Mayor Ronnie and asking for help in starting a MYC in their respective towns. “A listening heart, a wise heart, is also a servant’s heart,” said the mayor before we moved on to happier topics.

“Storytelling was a huge success,” said the mayor, and noted that we had more attendees than ever. He was also touched by the fact that several churches had come together to sponsor a Fall Fun Fest right on the heels of the Storytelling Festival. He painted a picture for me of the kids playing in a safe place; but one of the things that struck him was that so many people volunteered to help the professionals take the tent down to quickly “turn the space,” and that that it was finished in a fraction of the time. The festival went off without a hitch. “It was the servant’s heart in action,” he said.

Another wonderful example of the listening heart, the servant’s heart, and wisdom in action is going to be on Saturday, November 3 in the form of Convoy of Hope. Several churches have again come together to serve people in our community, and as Mayor Ronnie said, “This is the type of thing we want to accomplish often.” He went on to talk about the 200th Birthday parties for the city, and the fact that First United Methodist Church had just celebrated theirs.

In spite of sadness, there was much to look forward to and celebrate. So we prayed, both of us asking for wisdom, a servant’s heart, and a listening heart. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner