Mayor Ronnie just passed a milestone and became 70 years young. There were posters and parties and his yard got papered with impunity by the neighborhood in broad daylight. Truly “a good time was had by all,” and while celebratory joy is one of his trademark qualities, it is certainly counterbalanced with a goodly amount of introspection and wrestling with the One who made him.
He spoke of an outstanding series that his Sunday School class has been working through; William Barclay’s The Parables Of Jesus. We were all taught in Sunday School that God is perfectly capable of speaking through rocks and asses, and it seems that, amazingly, Barclay found that George Bernard Shaw said the following: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community. And so long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.” Barclay goes on to say on page 130, “We are living in a world where the tendency is to try and extract more and more reward for less and less work; and at its basis this is not an economic problem at all, but a moral and a religious one. Nearly all the problems of the world’s work would be solved if men and women everywhere attempted the Christian duty of putting more into life than they take out.”
During our chats over the past few weeks, there have been several themes that have continued to resurface. One has been building community by teaching the way and the why of building community, as awkward as that sounds, and is illustrated above. Another has been both to celebrate the caliber of leadership that we see coming up in our area through our kids and young leaders, and to continually illustrate the need for more. Then he said something that I asked him to repeat because it crystallized a concept that unknowingly had been rumbling around in my own “recesses.” It needed to be “front and center,” and it was this: “There is a big difference between management and leadership.” Think of that. Most of the time we use the terms interchangeably, but they are not. He went on to say, “I think that management can be learned by most people. But someone needs to see you as a leader, and the skills of leadership are a combination of gift, training and life experience.”
The man certainly has had his “baptism of fire” when it comes to life experiences since he took office in November of 2010. He has been “on the wall” through record snow, several tornadoes, having to find the balance between spending money to facilitate economic growth while remaining fiscally conservative, and fielding calls in his office that are at times the equivalent of calling the fire department to come and get one’s kitty out of a tree.
He told me about a man that he would like to be like “when he grows up.” In all the years that he worked in Montgomery, he had several bosses. And, like you and I, some were a dream and others a nightmare to be around and to work for. But there was this one guy….
“Ali, that man could inspire me and others to do anything for him and love doing it,” he said, “and that’s what kind of man I want to be.” “When you grow up?” I teased him a touch, given the “70” milestone. He laughed and rolled his eyes at me, as is his custom. Then we prayed, and I left with a new determination to be both a good manager or a steward of the things and situations I have been given, and to develop whatever leadership skills I have for the King, the Kingdom, and my beloved Athens. And that, my dears, is what happens when Ronnie is on a roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner