Last “Ronnie” we began a discussion about a book that is equipping the mayors of Alabama to see the blessing that is a small city to its residents, and how to make it more so. The Gift Of Community, by Gary McCaleb is something we are going to be talking about for awhile, and the topic of public safety, especially in the context of yesterday’s 4th of July celebrations is an important one.
Sometimes in the safety culture we have developed, (where it nearly seems like one needs to wear a helmet just to go to the mailbox,) we can almost get kind of sour when it comes to celebrating national and local holidays. The balance between celebrating joyously something as important as the birth of America and not blowing yourself up in the process can be a tricky one.
Mayor Ronnie actually has experienced the dreadful aftermath of someone getting killed by fireworks on the 4th, and it is something that he is concerned about every year. This moves me to the skill set that any soldier, (including our mayor, even before ‘Nam,) develops in the process of being in a combat zone. It is is what is known as “situational awareness.” Situational awareness is just a fancy way of saying “pay attention to your surroundings,” and it means way more than wearing protective eye wear if you are setting off fireworks.
“The blessing of community” means we keep a constant eye out for danger and dangerous people without becoming suspicious and small inside. We have a wonderful town, and our crime rate is low. But we can’t be naïve. If we make a point of just paying attention to our surroundings and the people in them as a matter of course when we are out and about, we can continue to keep our crime rate low by “keeping it safe.” That means things like not having your nose in your ‘droid and texting while you are walking across a parking lot at night, but it can also mean being ready to help someone who just had the bottom fall out of their grocery bag.
“The blessing of community” is also seen when we come together for holidays, such as the 4th of July. “The 4th is about way more than cook outs with family, and watching the firework display from the field near Athens High School. “It is about recognizing what this country means,” said Mayor Ronnie. As someone who came to so deeply appreciate our soldiers and the country they defend perhaps later in life than most, I for one am glad we have a mayor with combat experience gained during one of the most unappreciated and misrepresented wars in American history.
There is an indefinable reservoir of strengths and experience that is learned in combat like nowhere else. It causes you to think several moves ahead while you are on your feet, and is part of “keeping all things safe,” so that we can indeed have “the blessing of community.” However, it is also something that can be developed by anyone, and in days gone by, was expected of all.
So, what is expected of us? “Be safe, and always celebrate,” says our Mayor. And that’s another thing that makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner