New Year’s blessings, January 1, 2021
As we all tend to do this time of year, today I’m taking stock of the past 12 months and the prospects of a safer, healthier, saner, overall better 2021!
One thing I read in my first year Humanities class at Davidson was Voltaire and the only lesson that’s stuck with me all those years was his classic “tend your garden.” Actually, maybe somebody else said that and his was “the world is contained in a grain of sand.” (Okay I looked it up and it was indeed Voltaire tending the garden, and William Blake on the beach).
Anyway, the point all these years later and amidst our shared pandemic situations: this was a year for localism and paying attention to what’s going on in our little small worlds wherever we are. For me that’s Athens GA a lot and Sandwich NH some.
Here in Athens, I have been so happy with a few developments near and dear to my heart:
Athens Land Trust perseveres on, despite significant hurdles, slings and arrows and it continues to do vital work in our town with its work on land conservation, affordable housing, urban farming and sustainable community development— and their new location for the West Broad Market Garden seems like it’s working out fine and will soon be year-around. The ALT team is such a positive force for good in our town: https://athenslandtrust.org/
Sweet Olive Farm, on 200 acres outside of Winterville, is a unique and vibrant community of humans and animals— a combination farm, animal rescue sanctuary and learning environment that shares broadly with our community. We are so blessed to know and support their work and it seems to me like they’re picking up steam and have some real momentum: https://sweetolivefarm.org/
Cobbham Triangle Park, thanks to Piedmont College, is the latest addition to our intown neighborhood, a little gem on Prince Avenue that’s enhanced by some stunning public art from local talents and providing a respite of beauty on a busy thoroughfare.
U-Lead Athens continues to help Athens high school students fulfill their college aspirations and has sustained a mentoring program that guides its participants through the daunting challenges of applying to and attending college in America these days. It was also one of the main charities for which recently-departed Rev. Shannon Mayfield’s family has requested donations in lieu of flowers. https://www.uleadathens.org/
Chess and Community continues its mentoring of Athens youngsters through the lessons and strategies of chess, and this year, adapting to a mainly virtual platform, it expanded its mission to include a robotics program called the Pawn Accelerator. Chess and Community does great work and makes a difference for a lot of students and families https://www.chessandcommunity.net/
Of course like everywhere else, our beloved Clarke County School District has faced multiple challenges this year but I am hopeful with the recent naming of Dr Xernona Thomas as Superintendent that CCSD is in good and steady hands and that better times lie ahead, especially once the pandemic passes us by. The dedication of teachers and staff has never been the issue and I am so thankful they continue to do all they do under the circumstances they face daily. And with Dr Thomas at the helm, I sense both continuity and a real commitment to children from the top. #ProudToBeCCSD
Lydia’s Place is a group that focuses on foster children, especially as they “age out” of foster care once school is done. They provide hope across the Athens area by providing housing, food, clothes and support for young adult students that have experienced foster care or homelessness. They do good work, work that is often overlooked by all of us in our busy bubbles: https://lydias-place.com/
Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement continues its work bringing attention to the seemingly eternal curse of racism in our town and the very real damage it does to people and our social fabric. And they do so in a positive and creative ways, with another MLK Day event coming right up— “marching” inside cars so we can all be safe— sounds fun: https://www.aadmovement.org/
The Athens Area Homeless Shelter has had its capacity stretched this year and provided services and shelter for way more people than expected or budgeted given these times. Here’s one neat story to relate from Winterville Mayor Dodd Ferrelle who busks each New Year’s Eve for the homeless shelter. This year for obvious reasons busking on Clayton Street was not going to happen. So Dodd turned it into a virtual event with an initial goal of raising $1500, about what he would expect to raise by passing the hat downtown in a normal year. But thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, as of this morning more than $5000 has been raised for the homeless shelter. https://www.helpathenshomeless.org/
And finally, I am happy to report that Bill Cody has made some serious progress on his new movie, an update of his original Athens GA Inside-Out back in the 1980s with some of the same people, only wiser, as well as a look at the “kids” in Athens right now, and beyond just the music. It’s going to be great and here’s a trailer to enjoy: https://gofund.me/3bf21a07 With any luck, it should be out sometime next year and maybe even in festivals and theaters someday sooner than later!
Oh, and in case you’d missed it, I hear we have some runoff elections in Georgia a few days from now and anyone who hasn’t already voted early will surely remember to on January 5th. Needless to say, so much of what happens locally is determined by forces much larger than those within our city. The United States Senate hangs in the balance and I’m sure you know the rest and why it’s so critical especially now.
Mostly, like most everyone, I am grateful for my family and my friends, whether they are nearby or faraway— and for the prospects we’ll have for a better new year with plenty of work still to do.
Suggested soundtrack for this one: Stay (Faraway, So Close): https://berto.fyi/353CaMh