Tears and Laughter: The heart of a community

It is growing, of course, and improving every year, but for the last few holiday seasons the Christmas in Camden celebration has consisted mostly of a local guy dressed as Santa Claus being delivered to the downtown square in a fire truck.

And I guess this has been enough for us because we would gather outside the courthouse and cheer when he arrived. Different groups and individuals would sing Christmas songs and hymns while we waited.

Always before, Christmas in Camden has been held on a weekday afternoon, but this year it will be on Saturday, Dec. 12. This will make it easier for crafters with booths, and church groups having bake sales.

Also in the past, Coast to Coast has stayed open late giving shoppers the chance to shop after hours. Its storefront window attracts everyone young and old. It glows with that small town Christmas feeling, and serves as a fitting backdrop for Santa’s arrival into downtown on the fire truck.

There are Christmas stories read at Black Belt Treasures. Cookies and punch are served. They too have always stayed open late, and like Coast to Coast, they would have door prize drawings for customers. Some years the popularity of the Christmas stories has been dependent upon how cold it was outside. But for the last two years they have really been a hit.

We have learned though to schedule the stories before Santa’s arrival and again afterwards but nothing dares try and compete with him. The first blares from the siren send kids running and squealing with anticipation. The whole town plans and prepares for weeks, mostly, for these few short moments of joy it provides for our local children.

It was in this spirit that I was already writing this column meant to encourage involvement in our community when I heard the news that young Jack Sessions had accidentally broken his leg Saturday afternoon while playing football with friends in a neighborhood in Camden.

A friend called and told me, my daughter asked if I had seen the sad news on Facebook, and I received a text that simply said, “Y’all pray for Jack.”

And we did. Camden was praying, so was Canton Bend, Possum Bend, people in Millers Ferry, down in Coy, all the way out past Pine Hill into Thomasville and over to Marengo County. Everybody was worried about him. One of his neighbors said he didn’t even care about the Alabama and Auburn game anymore. He just wanted Jack to be alright.

Sunday evening his parents happily shared that the surgery had been a success and they would soon be bringing him back home to start his recovery. Wilcox County rejoiced.

Go to as many parades, strolls, and festivals in neighboring towns and counties as your schedule will allow this year. Travel to the city, if you need to see more. But if you just want to feel the spirit of Christmas, it will most likely be found within the people who will surround you in prayer if ever it is needed. One strong young man has reminded Camden of the importance of community this week. There may be places with brighter lights and bigger celebrations, but with no greater hearts than those we have here.

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.