Tears and Laughter: Talking trash in Wilcox County 

Several residents in several areas of the county had their trash picked up late this past week. Some didn’t have it picked up at all. Some had neighborhood dogs strew it all along the roadway and many at this point are wondering exactly what in the hell is going on with the garbage.  

Wilcox is not known for being good at managing water and trash services. Lamison still doesn’t have county water, but there has been progress overall. When I first moved here in 1996, there was no trash pick-up. There were huge dumpsters placed throughout the county and that is where everybody took their garbage. The county would empty the dumpsters on a routine basis, but not before they were overflowing and you could tell when you were passing them in the dark. 

So it was a great day in Wilcox County when pick-up service started. There have been different contracts along the way with different companies. The county of course also made an unsuccessful attempt at handling it themselves, but the latest contract is with Advanced Disposal.  

In last week’s column, I mentioned that Advanced Disposal was threatening to suspend services if payment was not made. The county owed Advanced $266,000, not including what they will be billed for October. They paid $80,000 on Friday, October 13 and another payment of $40,000 was expected to be paid as of Friday, October 20. In an email, Advanced Disposal communicated to the county commissioners, “The money should be on hand as customers have been paying for services.” 

Chairman of the commission, John Moton, Jr. responded, “I do understand his stance and agree that the money should be on hand but due to their over-billing and 18 to 20% nonpayment on the west end of the county; unfortunately the money is not on hand. In the past we’ve had to use monies from the general fund to cover short falls in solid waste. Our general fund can’t afford to do this and continue to make payroll til January.” 

He described it another way in a private message sent to me by a reader who had both been questioning me and messaging Chairman Moton. I don’t know that she meant to send me his reply, but in it he was more than generous in explaining the math behind the money. “I am the chairman of the commission and have no more access to county funds than you do. The Advance Disposal account is behind because: 1.They have been over-billing us by 700 customers @ $14+ per customer and we just found that out after we got a new solid waste officer to finally do a house count. 2. There are also 714 nonpaying customers that we pay for every month because they refuse to pay and we have not been able to force collections.  3. There are over 400 SSI customers exempted from payment and we are forced by law to pay $14+ per month for them. Now let’s do the math: 1114 nonpaying customers + 700 customers overbilled by Advanced Disposal = 1814 payments per month by Wilcox County (you following me?) 1814 x $14.35 = $26,030.90 x 12 months = $312,320.80 per year extra payment by Wilcox County. So as you can see; the only thing that’s being misused is Wilcox County. Point Blank. Period!!!” 

The vice-chairman, Bill Albritton, wishes to assure the public their garbage service will continue and that Advanced Disposal has no plans of discontinuing pick up as long as the county is making an effort to get current and keeps in communication.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: If your town is not painting rocks, your community is missing out on the fun 

Often times in downtown Camden, there is no one out. The sidewalks are empty and so are the streets, except for the occasional car passing through.

Of course there are other times when it is busy. Early in the day when people are out running errands and working, and especially at the first of the month. On parade days the sidewalks will be crowded, and again when Santa rolls in on a firetruck during the annual Christmas in Camden festival.

And sometimes the courthouse square looks like a farmer’s market with people milling around. You can’t pick up a bushel of purple hull peas and a couple pounds of shrimp fresh from the gulf for supper when you bail out of most courthouses. But in Wilcox, you can get tomatoes and local honey too. Camden is protective of its farmers. Anyone visiting, or anyone who is lost and finds themselves at the junction of Claiborne Street and Highway 265, is encouraged to stop and thump the watermelons. But often there are just vacant parking spaces and silence under the shade of the old pecan tree.

That was until these last few days when things have started to change. I parked on Claiborne Street beside the Veteran’s Monument Park Friday and immediately a truck pulled in and parallel parked behind me. A young girl jumped out of the passenger side door. She was grinning and started running. I watched her grab a painted rock like it was a baton in a relay race. All in one movement she swooped up the rock and headed back to the truck.

Her mom was smiling as she pulled away, and in seeing them happy I noticed that I was smiling too. I was clutching three painted rocks and had intentionally waited for them to drive away before I got out of the car so as to not give away the locations. I was about to hide one at the Veteran’s Monument and the others across Broad Street at the courthouse and library.

I had seen different articles and news features about the Kindness Rocks Project. I know Andalusia is rocking and Prattville is participating as well as Monroeville. Several towns are, but I thought little of it really…because I live in Camden.

Specifically, I live about eight miles out from Camden in Canton Bend – which adheres to the Alabama River and connects to Possum Bend on one end and Millers Ferry on the other – but we all have Camden addresses.

The creative rock project initially began in Memphis, Tennessee. While the process of painting the rocks as well as finding the rocks can be an introspective process, the goal was simply to inspire others – both through the art on the rock and through the random act of kindness. Anyone who finds a rock is encouraged to share a picture on Facebook, then keep it or hide it again.

The local Alabama Camden Rocks page started on July 5. Within days sidewalks were filled with those young and young at heart. I’ve never witnessed anything so simple and positive bring a community together so quickly.

Neighbors have gathered kids together to paint rocks, along with church youth groups. Even during summer break a crowd of students got together to paint and hide rocks. Creative adults – some hesitant at first thinking they were too old to play – have joined in on the fun too. Toddlers, guided by their mothers and grandmothers holding their chubby hand, have in the other their own creation to hide in exchange for a find.

There have been painted turtles and puppies and lady bugs. There have been signs, scriptures and emojis along with messages and symbols of hope. Several posts of found rocks say, “This made my day!” Or, “I needed to see this today.”

Kindness, it turns out, is contagious. And it can bring joy to the emptiest of places.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Know what you love, and be willing to run to it

I have written before about teaching writing class and how one of the initial exercises is to have the students write a short, simple essay about their own self.

Five paragraphs.

It is supposed to be easy and serve as a transition into writing about others in second person, but there are always those who seem to draw a bank. They stare into space like they have been asked to describe a stranger.

This is sad to me. One of the many responsibilities we are charged with as parents – and teachers too to some extent – is to help our children to know who they are as individuals.

This is not the same as teaching them. You can’t teach them who they are the same way you can teach concepts. You might be able to teach them who you are, and in that you can influence what they accept or believe, but as for who they are as God naturally made them, it is something they have to discover and allow to develop.

It is why we introduce them to a myriad of books and activities. It is why we take them on trips and encourage them to play sports and take art classes, music classes, and dance.

It is why we let them have hamsters, take them to reptile farms, and start stamp collections we know they will never continue. We do it so they can learn what they like and equally important, what they don’t.

Knowing what they like helps them know what to choose, it helps them know what they want, what suits them, how they tick, how they learn, what they are attracted to and why it is the are drawn to it.

It is how they identify their strengths and weaknesses. Talents, skills, and boundaries. It is how they grow into their purpose, just through knowing who they are and what they like. And writing five paragraphs about it should not draw such a void.

And it is not just children. There are grown people who take six months to pick out a paint color or what dress to wear to the next low country boil because they don’t know what they like. They are too worried about what other people might think or what color their mother would have preferred rather than just walking straight in and saying this it, this is me.

I met a little girl this week who I don’t think is going to have any trouble with the personal essay one day. I say I met her. I never caught her name. She fluttered through our day like a butterfly.

I had taken my youngest daughter to the Tickled Pink Petting Zoo that was visiting Thomasville. She was waiting to hold a python. She is 13. She is shy and creative, smart, and intuitive. She has a heart for animals, all of them, and most small children.

She did not pull away when a little redheaded girl sporting a hot pink tutu ran up to her after recognizing her favorite characters on her shirt. She leaned in, pointing to each with one hand and calling them by name, while holding McKenzie’s long hair out of her way with the other.

She ran back to her mother as quickly as she had appeared, but she left me thinking maybe we should all try and be more like her. Know what you love, and when you see it, run to it.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: The Purse Policy

If there’s anything I sometimes try to be…it’s agreeable. And currently, I’m trying.

It is a personal choice for a woman, the purse she carries. And a girl just knows her bag when she sees it. It is kind of like picking out a pet. There has to be a connection…a certain style or something that looks good being carried and yet still looks good riding shotgun beside us.

There are as many shapes and sizes of purses as there are women. I prefer mine to be, like my car and shoes, black. And maybe women who only want to carry lip gloss and a debit card can manage with the cutest of tiny purses. Something like you would take to a casino where all you need is an ID and a ticket. But usually, women of a certain age need a big-ass purse, and I am one of these people.

It is all very organized and necessary. I know because, as I mentioned, I am trying to be agreeable. I just dumped it all out on my bed and tried to edit it down to fit into something someone in middle school might carry. I stuffed it all in and it was so tight I couldn’t fit anything more in or search for what was already there.

I have bragged before about how Camden is blessed with four dollar stores. If you live here and raise a family here, you may order all of your clothes and shoes and exclusive bedding online and you can buy most everything else out of town when you are on your way home from the doctor or headed to buy lottery tickets, but you will still find yourself frequently shopping in the local dollar stores.

I’m sure the cashier felt obligated to tell regular customers about the new purse policy. She told me she was trying to tell everyone with “big bags” because she was about to hang a sign on the door banning them.

She apologized and seemed to search for an explanation before saying the store’s inventory had been audited and they were within $150 in losses away from every employee being fired.

I told her I understood her position. And I do. But the purse policy causes another set of circumstances for women. Just taking in a wallet causes a problem with break-ins being common. Leaving purses in cars is not recommended, if you intend to keep the purse and your back windshield.

A wallet is easy to grab, and more difficult to keep an eye on than a purse. You can’t sling it over your shoulder and have both hands free to shop with. You either juggle it, or leave it in your shopping cart and gamble with it being stolen when you look away.

It is not just a problem at this one store in Camden. It is a problem plaguing retailers nationwide.

Across the parking lot another store has been remodeled. A customer commented to a cashier there about how the new layout would make it easier to see down the aisles and maybe would deter shoplifters. The cashier quietly replied, “I don’t think there is anything that can stop that.”

Shoplifting overburdens police and weighs down courts. It costs communities the taxes lost, and it costs the store both in retail loss and security expenses, which inevitably costs customers more. And while I am trying to be agreeable, I can’t help but feel as if the thieves are winning.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Two men in the Black Belt, 2017 

The focal point of my backyard is a ten acre pond. Before it was a pond, it was a cotton field. You can’t tell it just by looking anymore, but through the woods is an antebellum home that once oversaw it. It still stands silent and majestic. Its walls don’t talk at all.

We could ride over to the river. We could be there within five minutes and from a secluded cliff we could look down at the sparkling Alabama that once brought people in and carried away bales of Black Belt cotton. But the proof of it now lies beneath a watery grave and can only be seen in black and white pictures.

It was the black fertile soil that invited in agriculture and helped fuel it. This region was once the wealthiest in the nation. It was home to affluent men and accomplished women. They wore the finest of dresses and slept on the best of linens and furnished their homes with elaborately handsome furniture.

None of this remains. Only in fragments and pieces. In busted-up sets of dishes forgotten about in old china cabinets. What wealth remains in Wilcox County has more to do with pine trees and paper than the cotton plant.

The one way in, one way out road I live on is named after the son of a slave. Perry Johnson is said to have fathered 23 children, though a set of twins passed away at birth. Most of my neighbors, practically without exception are the sons, daughters, and extended relatives of his children.

There is calm here now. You can feel it in the evening shade. Even the spirit in the air seems to whisper peace. But I’m glad the ground can’t talk. I know what was witnessed here and mirrored everywhere. You just would never know by the terrain.

Growing up I didn’t expect that I would ever live on a farm. I was not a member of the FFA. And maybe in retrospect, I should have been. It’s no secret that I have a fair amount of “Green Acres” in me. Usually my responsibility when it comes to farming is to stay out of the way. I’m too sensitive for some parts of it, and other parts can be tedious and unavoidably dangerous.

Such was the case this past Saturday morning, as it became clear that a first time mother cow needed help delivering. She had become panicked and unpredictable. It was more than one man could safely handle.

A neighbor came over and helped. These two men have helped one another many times over the past 25 years. They have prepped gardens that fed their families and other families. They have shared pears, pecans, Catawba worms and catfish. There has been an exchange of a couple of pet kittens and puppies along the way.

After storms they have worked together with other neighbors to cut fallen trees from the one way in, one way out road we all live on. If time allows, they will help one another again, both as neighbors and as friends.

They reminded each other of this assurance as they shook hands Saturday morning.

I don’t think they have ever noticed their hands aren’t the same color. It’s just not something that matters to men in the Black Belt.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: What your mom wants this Mother’s Day 

This is the week for mothers. Those of us still fortunate enough to have our mothers will search for just the right gift to show her how much we love and appreciate her.

We will try and find perfectly worded cards that tell her how very much she means to us. We will send fresh cut flowers, make calls, and visit.

Those without their mothers anymore will spend the week missing them while wishing they could shop for a gift. They would say the words the card would say, and take the time to personally deliver the flowers.

But this year don’t knock yourself out trying to find the illusive perfect Mother’s Day gift. Your mom wouldn’t want you to worry over it, and besides, it is true what they say. Whatever you give her will make her happy. It doesn’t even have to be a gift. All you have to do to make your mom happy is be you.

Let your mother see you enjoying your life. Follow your passions, find your purpose. Go seek your destiny. That is what she wants. Because she knows life is fleeting and temporary, yet so full of mystery, wonder, and meaning.

My first two daughters were delivered at Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa. My son and third daughter were born at Baptist South in Montgomery. With each I remember thinking this physical life could offer no greater gift or happiness. Women share the stories between themselves for a lifetime, these memories of meeting new little lives entering the world.  Motherhood is a heartstring that connects us.

It’s like a baptism in a sense. When a woman emerges from a hospital with a newborn in her arms she is not the same person she was before. She is equipped with a new strength no one can see, and she will hurt you over that baby.

This protective motherly love does not end when they make it out of the crib either. If you doubt this, go to any little league game in the state and watch the mamas. We defend our children, be they right or wrong, as long as we have breath within us.

I guess that’s just how God made mothers. It is the weakness that balances the strength. If they hurt, we hurt. If they experience loss, we experience loss. Our joy is contingent upon theirs.

I first realized I wanted to be a mother when the absence of a child felt like a ghost around me. It was as if a space had appeared in my life that needed to be filled.

Being a mother can be spiritually healing. It restored my faith in many ways. Prior, I might have confessed that I believed, but my heart had questions. The love I felt for my children changed that uncertainty in me.

Other mothers might describe their experiences differently, but most would likely agree that God would not allow such a powerful bond to exist in this life that doesn’t expand and continue on into the next.

And that is the gift.

You were the gift.

To your mother…you still are.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Other reasons Alabama may be the most stressed state in the nation

The personal finance site, Wallethub, has found Alabama to be the most stressed-out state in the nation. Being defensive about Alabama the way I am my first impulse was to try and disagree with the study’s findings. They claim Alabamians are stressed because we don’t have easy access to mental health care, have – on average – lower credit scores, and don’t get enough sleep at night.

Alabama hasn’t had all that much money since cotton was king, so I can’t imagine that people’s credit scores are keeping them awake at night. But in regards to our mental health I am going to have to unfortunately beg Wallethub’s pardon. Exactly what are they implying by reporting that a majority of people in Alabama need mental help? Because I think it comes across a touch strong.

Just because it has been well-documented and reported that our governor has frequently in the recent past few years taken leave of his senses doesn’t mean the rest of us need professional help. Unless you consider the fact that the majority of us voted his craziness into office, twice.

I guess we do have every right and excuse in the world to be a little stressed. We are a little angry too. What should have been the best of us, has failed us. Our leadership has been embarrassingly corrupt. We are all capable of accepting that this is not the first time there has been some physical action take place in the governor’s office. Many rumors of adultery have breezed through the halls of the capitol building before during previous administrations. But some of the details that have emerged from the Bentley-Mason affair have made even the most seasoned and worldliest of us either blush, or cringe.

And it wasn’t even so much about the affair. It was what it took to facilitate it. It was accusations of using public office for personal gain, violating the Ethics Code, and misusing campaign funds that made an investigation to prove the affair necessary.

It is abundantly clear now. To repeat it in detail would be redundant, but an enormous amount of time, resources, and energy were spent serving and protecting a relationship that never should have been allowed to evolve into what it became. All of that money, time, and effort should have been channeled toward the problems facing this state and the issues directly affecting the quality of life for Alabamians.

He seemed very sincere and comfortable lying to everyone – his wife, his family, her, her family, us, our families. He spoke calmly and reassuringly. He had learned the skill of making eye contact while lying. He was convincing and confident, and rightly so I suppose. For so long, it worked

Governor Bentley’s impeachment proceedings were cut short Monday by his resignation, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was dutifully sworn-in as Governor, and Easter Sunday is waiting to greet us at the end of the week. Maybe through grace we as a state will somehow find hope within all of the disappointment. Maybe this public shame will serve as a reminder as to why not to make certain choices. Otherwise, Wallethub could be right, most of us are going to need mental health help if we want to ever trust again. Or is the stressful part…that we did.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.comor athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: The freedom and economics of American stay-at-home moms

An Australian columnist, Sarrah Le Marquand, penned an article last week that has caused a worldwide discussion about stay-at-home mothers. In the United States we tend to respect and value all mothers whether they work full-time, part-time, or not at all.

Not so much so in Australia apparently. At least not according to Ms. Marquand who believes it should be illegal for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom once her children reach school age. She claims it doesn’t help anybody – not husbands, children, bosses, or other women – and they should be forced to go to work like everybody else. Her opinion was based upon a study by the Australian Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which found stay-at-home moms represent large losses to their economy.

Things really are different here. Stay-at-home moms help the American economy if through nothing more than their frequent use of Amazon.com and eBay. Moms stay in a constant state of shopping for shoes big enough to fit one, jeans long enough to fit another, and birthday presents. They all drive full size SUV’s or minivans. What they spend on fuel to get everybody back and forth on time to ball practice, dance, church, art, the orthodontist, and piano lessons should mean something. Plus there is the fact that almost every single one of them makes plans every summer to go help stimulate Florida’s economy too.

And let us not pretend that this particular faction of society doesn’t like to eat. Have you ever seen a group of these sweet mamas gathered at a Mexican restaurant for girl’s night out? It’s remarkable from appetizers through desert. Not to mention how they have spent more money than any of them care to recall on Happy Meals and Sonic dogs. Grocery store owners just love to see a stay-at-home mom dragging in pushing a buggy and holding a list – especially if she has all of her kids swarming around begging, and fighting, and complaining, and crying. This is why some stay-at-home moms sometimes buy wine, but still, they contribute to the economy.

In her column that has offended all of Australia and most of the free world, Marquand wrote, “Only when the female population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for wither gender.” She also added, “Feminism is about equality, not freedom of choice.”

I was listening to a group of girls last Tuesday in a writing class. The lesson was personal essays and the exercise to help them focus was a “heart map.” This can be as simple or as creatively elaborate as students wish, but the point is to list the people, experiences, and memories that have shaped their lives. It serves as a visual starting point for the personal essay.

Just like little American women they were quietly talking among themselves, their eyes and colored pencils never leaving their work. One of them asked another what she wanted to do when she grew up. She answered, “Well…I will to go to college and get an education. And you know I like to sing, and I want to do some mission work, but then…I believe I just want to get married and be a stay-at-home mom.” The other girl agreed, “Yeah… me too.”

They are young. They have time to change those plans, before changing them yet again. America was founded on principles that protect our children’s freedom to do just that.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: The endless art of Alabama writing

Writing, for the most part, is a solo sport. You can only talk about it for so long before eventually having to go into the back room and write. Writing classes won’t make you write if you aren’t already compelled, but they do serve as a good way to learn techniques for when an idea or inspirations strikes.

I have had the opportunity over the past few months to teach creative writing in Monroeville, and if you teach writing in Monroeville, the natural starting point is somewhat set. In 1997, by a joint proclamation of the Alabama House and Senate, Monroeville was declared the “Literary Capital of Alabama.” The town was given the title because of the many famous authors that have called Monroeville home including Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Mike Stewart, Cynthia Tucker, and Mark Childress.

Most widely known of them are Harper Lee and Truman Capote who were friends and neighbors during the 1930’s. It was interesting to hear kids from the Monroeville area talk about the town from their perspective. Some of them were fully aware of who each author was while others had never considered why there are mockingbirds painted on the sides of building.

As it happens, the class takes place within the shadows practically of the old courthouse. Even the youngest of children can appreciate the significance of learning about the craft of writing in a setting where a young Harper Lee and Truman once played.

To further the point, I told them how if they could talk their mamas into taking them to Mel’s Dairy Dream to get a hamburger sometime, that they could have lunch with what is left of where Harper Lee and Truman used to be. The small drive-in restaurant is located in the spot where Lee’s childhood home stood, and next door are the remains of Truman’s. It’s not much in one respect. No one can run through the halls. But their spirit is strong, and the energy is there both on sunny days, and when rain is falling. And I also explained that while things have changed over time, the chances of seeing either of the two great authors remains about the same as always.

It isn’t just Monroeville that produces writers. It seems the state itself has an endless list of famous writers. Winston Groom grew up in Mobile, and is best known for Forrest Gump. Rick Bragg, from Piedmont, is a current Professor of Writing at the University of Alabama and is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist as well as the author of several books. Fannie Flagg was born in Birmingham and is most well-known for, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Wayne Flint has written over a dozen books focused mostly on the historical, economic and social fabric of Alabama. Kathryn Tucker Windham grew up in Thomasville and considered herself a storyteller as much as a writer. And author and screenwriter, Eugene Walter, took a shoebox of Alabama red clay with him to Paris to remind him of home.

There is an ongoing conversation between writer types about what it is in Alabama that helps produce so many writers. Some say it is elements in the soil and water, possibly the air too. Others will say it is history blended with a culture of storytelling. I don’t know. Maybe it takes a little of it all, but for sure the only way it continues is through our young writers.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Tears and Laughter: How divided do we want our children to become?

If you missed the story that has been circulating about the five-year-old boys in Kentucky, maybe take the time to look it up. It will make your day. Jax and Reddy are classmates and best friends. Jax is white and Reddy is black. When it came time for Jax to get a haircut he wanted it cut just like Reddy’s. He thought this would be fun because then their friends and teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Children are such gifts of innocence and sweetness. We enter the world with the capacity to love one another. I don’t know what happens. These two little boys are good examples to all of us, but what kind of example are we setting for them?

We spend a fair amount of money and strength trying to drown out the uncertainty of time held in tension against the certainty of death. We build houses like we will be here forever, but we won’t. None of us will be here all that long. It is temporary. Whether black or white or both, whether Hispanic or Latina or foreign or illegal, no matter who you know or love or what you do, accomplish, or achieve. Whether you are religious, or consider yourself more spiritual, or if you believe you want nothing to do with deity – life doesn’t last. Even if you are right and those you perceive as being on the other side are wrong, it won’t last. Not here in the earth school.

I will turn 45 in a couple of months. When I was growing up in Sandflat I never thought about turning 45. Even after moving to Chilton County, the only age I could see was 18. I thought 18 came with a freedom to live. At 45, it is natural to start thinking the opposite. I am still free to live, but most likely, I am also over half finished with my life too. And the persistent AARP isn’t doing me any favors sending reminders twice a month.

Having been born in 1972, George Wallace had just been shot. Race relations were tense. There were culture clashes all across the country, but not any more intensely than they are now. Back then, nobody in rural Marengo County knew much about what was happening elsewhere. They were just neighbors, black and white alike. If a family needed help, the community helped.

The Huckabee well was struck by lightning once. My granddaddy asked Mose Lofton, who lived down the road, if he could get water from his well until the repairs were complete. Mr. Loftin told him, “Mr. Mack, that water belongs to the Lord. You get all of it you want.” I heard Granddaddy repeat that over time to other neighbors when their wells would be out.

There was a habitual exchange of ripe tomatoes or peaches in their seasons – watermelons in the summer, pecans in the fall. There were pound cakes after funerals and homemade dumplings when babies were born. And it continues still, even now 45 years later. I send my son with bags of pears for my neighbor, and she sends her son with a bushel of purple hull peas.

Maybe an often overlooked secret of the Black Belt is that we care about one another, regardless of the history of this fertile land we share, individual circumstances, or political leanings. I think sometimes we just forget it feels better to get along than it does to feel our beliefs are right. I’m not saying we could fool our friends by looking alike the way Jax and Reddy do, but if judged on heart and spirit alone…couldn’t we at least try? Our children are watching us. How divided do we want them to become?

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.