By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie had just had the opportunity to “Zoom” around Europe and celebrate with our twin city, Stonehaven, Scotland, along with cities with which Stonehaven had “twinned” that were located in France and Germany. He was quick to once again thank Deborah Baird, who got this whole twin city relationship started a few years ago, and through technology, people from several countries were able to come together and celebrate Christmas. “We had such a good time,” he said as he showed me the photo of the participants on the Zoom chat. They had a tech glitch that took about ten minutes to get straightened out, but when they got together, as the mayor said, “Think about this: we’ve got Germany, France, Aberdeen and Stonehaven in Scotland, and we are all getting a chance to fellowship.”
In most European countries, the tree is an important part of the festival, and the Zoomers from each country showed off their area’s official tree. Our tall tree, a beautifully decorated one out in the lobby of City Hall was put on display, and then the cities got to hear the Grinch, er Scrooge story of the live tree that is in the foyer just outside of the boardroom near the mayor’s office. Kim Glaze, the secretary to the mayor; Amy Golden, our customer relations manager/ “one-stop-shop” facilitator; and Holly Hollman, the communications and grant coordinator had wanted to get a live tree for the inner foyer area. Mayor Ronnie basically said, “Nothing doing,” as least as far as the possibility of the city credit card being used. Undaunted, the three women got permission to go to APD Chief Floyd Johnson’s farm to do it the old-fashioned way and cut down a live one. They came, they saw, they conquered (read that cut it down) dragged it back, put it up, and decorated it. More importantly, the story made the others laugh.
Scotland showed their ornaments, and on a serious side, they talked about their respective challenges with COVID as well as the role of first responders. Stonehaven had experienced freak storms and winds which had knocked out the power, and the American South had just had the killer twisters. “It’s a small world,” said the mayor, and I added, “If you let it be.” They were glad to be able to give holiday greetings, cheer each other up and on right there in the minute, and communicate with each other from across the miles.
In his neighborhood, Mayor Ronnie is known by the kids as “Pop,” his grandson Quinton’s name for him. Down the block a bit from the Marks’ house is a four-year-old by the name of Lennon who came up to Ronnie and said, “Pop, I haven’t seen you for a while, and I haven’t seen your office.” So, Pop made it possible for Lennon (who was armed with a light saber) to come and put his feet up on the desk, and Lennon informed him, “I’m going to be mayor someday, and YOU are going to be my assistant.” The mayor looked at me and said, “And he actually used the word, assistant!” We laughed as I replied, “Good luck with that, Mr. Mayor!”
The Athens High School Jazz Band had played at Rotary on Friday, and as I had just heard them at the Saturday night concert, we both commented on how good they are. “Speaking of Rotary,” said the mayor, “read this.” And so, we closed our time with a quote from the recent edition of The Rotarian which said,
““Empathy is central to who we are as human beings. I talk about it as the centripetal force of storytelling. It’s also the centripetal force of community. It’s what holds us together; it’s what binds us. It’s part of what we are as humans, but it takes some effort. It’s not as if we’re naturally inclined to think of ourselves as somebody else. It takes a leap of imagination.”—Alex Kotlowitz
We briefly talked about the fact that this was the last article of 2021, and what a year it had been. Then we prayed, and it was time for Ronnie to roll. “See you next year,” he said. “Merry Christmas,” I replied, so grateful that I get to do what I do, and that’s collect stories.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner