By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Every year Mayor Ronnie and his team work hard to produce what is known as the State of the City address, and it is always something I anticipate, especially if the mid-winter blahs are trying to badger. For years the ballroom at Athens State University has been filled to capacity for the address, but due to COVID, this year all that had to be changed. A hybrid event was held at City Hall and online, and to me it was one of the best ever. Besides the requisite “look-back-look-forward” features, there were touching tributes to medical first responders; City Councilman Frank Travis spoke from the famous Trinity School bridge about building community relationship bridges, and Jerome Malone’s powerful original song, Love For The City was played as we were treated to an aerial tour of Athens.
There is no question that Athens is growing, but the perpetual question that is always on Mayor Ronnie’s heart and mind is, “How can we grow well?” One source for some wise answers as to how to grow successfully comes from the book, Friday Forward, by Robert Glazer, which was initially discussed in the first Athens Now edition of January. A key concept is the practice of what Glazer calls “capacity building,” and the four main sources from which to build are spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical. The idea is that when individuals, businesses, corporations, teams of any kind, and families get serious about capacity building, amazing things can happen. “Spiritual capacity building is not just about going to church, important as that is. The answer to the question of core values is crucial for community building,” said the mayor.
Friday Forward is designed to be a part of one’s daily ritual, the few minutes you take in the morning to feed your mind before you hit the ground running. And one of the things that makes it work is if you share briefly with even one person something that spoke to you about what you read. That is how it became a movement. With regard to building spiritual capacity, here is something that was worth underlining:
“We cannot inspire, motivate and guide others until we understand what is important to us and are consistent in our thoughts and actions. On a deeper level, building spiritual capacity means truly getting to know ourselves and aligning our lives based on that knowledge. One of the scariest things about building spiritual capacity is it removes any excuses — once we know what we want most, it feels especially disappointing not to pursue it.”
Mayor Ronnie also referred to the book Strong Towns for the State of the City address, and that is a series we will begin after we are finished with this one. Strong Towns is largely the “how,” and Friday Forward is more of the “why.”
?Mayor Ronnie described another way of illustrating the net effect of capacity building when he told me a mandate that had impacted him strongly: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.” “Ooh, that is good,” I replied. The concept of “tombstones” admittedly was not something either of us thought of much when we were younger, but becoming “seasoned citizens” has changed all that, and especially these days we realize that there is less time to make a difference. Our meeting time had flown and it was time to pray, so we did. And then it was time once again for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner