By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It had been quite a week and a most memorable weekend. In this season when we are surrounding ourselves with angels and kings, in Athens and Alabama, they were showing up everywhere – at High Cotton Arts, on the football field, at holiday concerts, and in The Traveler’s Gift.
Our most famous songstress, Patti Malone, sang like an angel all over the world, and thrilled audiences that included the crowns of nations. While it took a long time for her to gain the honor she deserved, she now has a permanent headstone as well as a beautiful portrait which was recently unveiled at High Cotton Arts. The painting is the creation of Madison artist Ann Steverson, and when the Scout House renovation project is finished, Miss Patti is the first one you will see over the fireplace when you walk in the door.
The Athens State University Community Band gave their holiday concert, and tonight the Center for Lifelong Learning will welcome back “Committed,” an a capella singing group that gained national recognition on NBC’s The Sing Off. It is the music of angels.
On the college championship football field, King Tua and King Jalen showed us all, whether Alabama or Auburn fans, just how powerful good sportsmanship, flexibility, humility, and confidence can be. The “come-from-behind” Tide’s victory brought tears to the eyes of their normally taciturn coach, but forever we will love two extraordinary young men for functioning like “warrior angels,” both on and off the field.
The gridiron, interestingly enough led to The Gift, where we encounter a man who is named for a king, David Ponder, conversing with an actual angel, whose name is Gabriel. Mayor Ronnie began to read to me, and soon Gabriel made a strange statement for an angel, as we normally think of them:
“You must know,” he began, “that in the game of life, nothing is less important than the score at halftime. The tragedy of life is not that man loses, but that he almost wins.” In the subsequent exchange between Gabriel and David Ponder, David bemoans his detours, lack of faith, and lack of understanding. He comes face to face with his own frailty and that of humans in general, and he nearly despairs. But Gabriel “re-frames” failure by saying the following:
“Between you and anything significant will be giants in your path. Easing off does not make the going easier. Neither does it guide one to the desired destination. Most men ease off when the going is rough. Most slow down when the road appears treacherous. These are the times when you must feel the weight of your future on your shoulders—the throbbing, unstoppable strength of destiny coursing through your veins. Times of calamity and distress have always been producers of the greatest men. The hardest steel is produced from the hottest fire; the brightest star shreds the darkest night.” Indeed, we base our faith on the fact that Babylonians followed a Star to the humble manger where the King of Kings was born, and the question must be asked: What if they had “almost made it?” Would we even have what we call “the Christmas Story?”
The mayor and I talked for a while about how we could apply Gabriel’s challenge to our own lives and help those in our circles to do the same. Then we prayed, and it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner