What Makes Ronnie Roll: Be A Change Agent

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It was a pedal-to-the-metal Monday, because Mayor Ronnie and a group of local leaders were getting ready to leave the next day for Washington D.C. They were going to meet with Congressman Dale Strong of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding various infra-structure needs in our area and how to meet them. It would be a quick trip; leaving Tuesday and being back on Wednesday, and everything from proclamations to food truck permits had to be signed. The ninth annual Chocolate Walk is going to be this Saturday, and while the tickets sold out in near record time, even if you don’t have a ticket that will give you your chocolate fix, you can still go in to the shops to receive discounts on purchases, and there will be extended shopping hours.

We talked about the fact that we have been designed to do hard things, and the topic of being a change agent came up. One of our favorite change agents in Athens is Laverne Gilbert, who after retiring, became so dismayed about how people were littering that she decided to do something about it. It started a movement in our town. “Being a change agent can be something as simple as picking up trash,” said the mayor, and then asked the question, “What are you willing to do to make a difference?”

As I dug around a bit, I discovered that the concept of being a “change agent” began to appear in our culture in the 1950s, and the term was coined by two economists, Wendell French and Cecil Bell. While the idea oftentimes is attached to organizational development in business, there is a real way that it can apply to a town. Anyone can be one, which was the point of our conversation, and what the mayor was encouraging us to become.

Mayor Ronnie had been thinking about gifts as discussed in the Book of Romans—spiritual gifts, “people gifts,” things that set folks in Athens apart. “We have so many gifted people of every age,” he said and then went on to talk about Youth Commission members Avery Paysinger, who is headed to the University of Alabama to study law, and Katrina Willliams, who is going to be attending Howard University. The two had spoken at Rotary on Friday, and to Mayor Ronnie it was one of those times that you feel like we are going to be okay if we have young people like these two who will someday be in charge.

We moved our discussion to the topic of what is going on in Texas at the border, as well as the fact that three soldiers had died in Jordan. “I don’t think people realize how it would take almost nothing to trigger WWIII. I agreed. We also discussed the fact that as believers we need to settle it in our hearts that if we live, we are the Lord’s, and if we die, we are the Lord’s. In other words, if we are alive and kicking, we still have a job to do. Being resolute really does bring peace.

There was only one thing left to do, and that was to pray. And then, once again, it was time for Ronnie to roll.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner