I am leaving Selma different, for the betterPublished 10:28pm Tuesday, August 20, 2013
New to Selma I went to the library as a first assignment — at the newspaper that is where they send all of the new reporters. They send them to meet the library staff and write their first story on children coming to the library to receive their library cards or a new program that teaches senior citizens to use computers and surf the web.
Becky Nichols greeted me with a hug, asked me about why I chose to come to Selma and she took my arm in hers. Side by side we walked through the rows of books and she showed me with wide eyes and enthusiasm the children’s section with hamsters and media rooms. I saw the joy of the library through her eyes.
I told her about my boyfriend, who is a blueberry farmer, and she told me that would make a great children’s book topic someday. I agreed. Her sweetness and interest in my life, a stranger’s life, made me want to cry.
She told me she wanted to not just be a news source, but told me she wanted to be my friend. She let me borrow a book, “The Odd Egg Editor” by a lady I did not know much about — Kathryn Tucker Windham. Becky told me to let Windham speak to me through the book.
For the year I have been in Selma, the whole truth is I have not really had to try at what I do. Working as a reporter, I did not find interesting stories or sweat while writing them.
Your emails complimenting me on my work here have been so sweet — but I honestly felt the whole community made me who I am today and made my work what it was. You were the ones who brought me stories and showed me how great Selma really is.
Each person in Selma, from the clerks at the probate office to the baristas at the Coffee Shoppe, have taken my arm, just like Nichols, and were eager to share Selma through their eyes. To every person in Selma, the city represents something different. To some, it was singing in the Church Street United Methodist Choir. To others, Selma is just “A Nice Place To Live,” as it is painted on the water tower above Cruikshank Alley.
For many, it is a work in progress they can take pride in — a place they want to make better simply because it is home.
To me it is sipping a Kahlua and cream at the Harmony Club, eating Hancocks BBQ like a glutton and singing all night long with my friends on a back porch on Mabry Street.
But as I said, I really didn’t have to try. I am not special because I saw this city as a jewel and wrote about it. My positive views on Selma only came about because each person in town, with the exception of maybe three or so old, ornery folks, showed me the magic, the beauty mixed with horror of a Southern Gothic town.
Selma is a river city with ghosts and legends and people who invite strangers over for dinner.
Whether I was worshipping with charismatics, trembling with joy at the sound of the shofar horn or listening to women at the Pilot Club gab on about bird feeders, each one of you have been used as tools by God to touch my life in a deep and special way.
I am leaving Selma a different girl — my faith in the Lord is stronger because of the faith people have in an underdog city.
I believe in miracles again after watching Bob Armstrong’s Drug Court program change lives from the inside out.
God has used a place some roll their eyes at, to shake me to my core, question who I am and challenge me for what I could become.
Endless conversations with you about what will change this city and make it better, what God is doing to stir things up in Selma, are not over yet, for me. And, they will not be for years to come.