By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

For several years, I have marveled at how Mayor Ronnie loves to budget. (It’s not one of my chief loves in life, I’m jes’ sayin’.) However, as he was grappling with the last details of this year’s city budget before it went before the city council, he quoted something from The Traveler’s Gift that struck me and made me know we are on the right track in starting this series. “Today I am choosing to be happy,” which was taken from Ann Frank’s diary, and I’ll clue you in on that in a moment. If you remember from last time’s Ronnie, the League of Municipalities for the State of Alabama is going to use The Traveler’s Summit as part of this year’s discussion on leadership, and we will, too. However, the first book, which was written in 2002 by Alabama’s Orange Beach resident, Andy Andrews, is a must read in order to get the full benefit of the sequel. Speaking for self, I would love to have Andy come here to Athens some day to speak, and his work is always an engaging, easy read and packed full of common sense wisdom. Mayor Ronnie says Andy is one of the best speakers he has ever heard, and the mayor has been blessed to hear a few of the great ones over the years!

The premise of the fiction book is that the hero, David Ponder, has an intense “crash-and-burn” season in his life which includes being in a car accident, and while unconscious he had several dream encounters with a number of famous historical figures. When he comes to, he synthesizes what he learned into an important life lesson, and those become what are called, “The Seven Decisions.” It was indeed the crisis of nearly dying that got David’s attention, and the wisdom he gained through it all is sound. If the dream-encounter approach does not resonate with you, the quotes of each character are all found in any historical narrative, so you can go in that “door” to get to the good stuff. And, if you are someone who likes to hop around in a book, it is entirely possible to enjoy the Gift in just about any order.

Regarding Ann Frank:
the fact is that she never intended to have her diary serve to shed much needed light on the tragedies and triumphs of the Holocaust. Her diary was found quite by accident by a woman named Miep Gies, who was responsible for both feeding Ann’s family while they hid and getting the diary published. Ann’s words to Mr. Ponder, those that made up the 5th Decision? -- “Today I choose to be happy.” Mayor Ronnie read me part of the chapter on Ann, and he knew he needed to follow her advice. I did, too, for that matter, and I didn’t have the weight of the city budget on my shoulders. One of the things that shows up in every “Decision” is a free-standing comment by the author, and not the character. Here is what Andy said with regard to the chapter on Ann and the power of choice that is our “gift”: “Our very lives are fashioned by choice. First we make choices. Then our choices make us.”

Ann, David, and Andy had given us much to chew on, so we did. Then it was time to pray, so we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll…right on into a budget meeting.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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