Touch of kindness makes a difference

Big Jim

Alabama’s Jacob Tidwell (left) and Kaylee Roth (center) assist Big Jim Salles of Texas as he registers for the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix on June 13. (Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash)

Big Jim didn’t like the formality at all. “James Salles” on his nametag just wouldn’t do.

He promptly requested a Sharpie and took care of it. Now that’s better, he said.

The proud Texan and his wife, Sue, (or Mother, as he called her) were late registering for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. They had car trouble along the way and were exhausted by the desert heat but the sweet southern accents and polite nature of two young Alabama Baptists made everything right again.

Jacob Tidwell of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, moved immediately to creating a new nametag for Big Jim with the approved nickname so he didn’t have to wear the Sharpie-
corrected version.

Tidwell showed the same care for “Ms. Sue” as he made sure she collected her book of ballots, convention program and nametag. Tidwell’s astute observation skills and polite but quick action combined with Judson College student Kaylee Roth’s sweet banter pulled big smiles and lots of laughter from the Salles family.

‘Honey bunches’

And Roth’s warm smile and Cracker Barrel-trained “thanks, honey bunches” sealed the deal — Big Jim and Ms. Sue felt totally at home.

Tidwell and Roth were among 23 college-age young adults from Alabama Baptist churches serving at the SBC registration counters and as greeters and ushers at the doors.

Once I knew the secret code — they were all wearing white golf shirts — then they were easy to spot in the crowds.

As I approached the front door to the convention center the next morning, friendly smiles and warm welcomes greeted me. And yes — white shirts. More Alabama Baptist young adults representing our state and our faith with joyous hearts and gracious spirits.

Alyssa McGee of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Maplesville, and a student at the University of Alabama; Korey Cowart of Central Heights Baptist Church, Florence,and a student at the University of North Alabama; and Rita Pearson-Daley of First, Montgomery, and a student at UAB — all showcasing the Light as they served.

‘Staying with the stuff’

These roles aren’t seen as glamorous like the activities of the platform personalities or the featured presenters at the top-level exhibits but they are acts of service that affect the experience of the participants. They are what a friend of mine calls “staying with the stuff.”

There must be a dependable support team in place consistently working through the routine parts of any ministry, organization or event. Without that team the people called to be out front wouldn’t be able to sustain their responsibilities.

My co-worker Wanda emailed me a prayer as I departed for Phoenix: “May God bless you in your coming and going. May you be so full of the Holy Spirit that He splashes out wherever you walk.”

Her words resurfaced in my mind as I watched our Alabama students in action. What a difference a touch of kindness, joyous heart and gracious spirit make — even in the routine moments.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Drop-dead deadline is here — Are we willing to help Alabama legislators solve budget crisis with wise choices?

It might just be a no-win situation — Alabama’s General Fund budget, that is.

And what if you are one of the legislators currently tasked with solving the crisis? What if you had to solve a major problem and everywhere you looked people were yelling at you to side with them — some pressuring to the point of pain?

If you are about to make everyone mad no matter what you do, then why not pick the easy way out and basically take the money and run? Why worry about everyone else’s future if you are going to be beaten up anyway, right?

I really hope that scenario doesn’t play out and that we really do have a strong enough force of representatives and senators to fight the temptation to grab some of the façades being dangled in their faces.

I believe there are true leaders in the state Legislature. There are men and women with strong convictions and family values still willing to lead appropriately for the greater good no matter the consequences — even if it means they lose their seat of power because of the backlash from lobbyists with deep pockets.

After all, don’t we all have to deal with decisions like that from time to time, where we are faced with sacrificing something we don’t want to give up in order to do the right thing or help the greater good? Wouldn’t it be easier to make those steps together rather than alone?

How can we as Alabamians help encourage, motivate and help our legislators stand strong and make wise decisions for the future of our state?

Gov. Robert Bentley announced today that the second special session to deal with the budget crisis begins Sept. 8. To find and/or contact your senator or representative, click here.

To read the full article, click here.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Preparing to be prepared

being preparedWhen his truck’s gas tank nears half full, my father-in-law can’t rest until he finds a gas station to fill the tank again. He likes a full tank of gas.

I’ll admit I’ve teased him about this obsession for years — even as I’ve prayed myself to a gas station many times while driving on fumes.

He likes to be prepared and knows what it is like to be on alert for a mandatory hurricane evacuation out of South Florida. A full tank of gas can change everything for the better in the midst of trying to flee north on I-95 with thousands of other cars.

I’m guessing that most Alabamians and north Georgia residents have a different perspective about a full tank of gas and other emergency supplies since the Jan. 28 weather catastrophe. I know I do.

It seems that everywhere I go, someone is talking about how he or she has put together an emergency kit for the car, is now leaving extra toiletries and clothes at the office or has worked out a new work-from-home plan when bad weather is predicted.

It is smart to learn from difficult experiences and develop plans for similar issues that might happen in the future. We now have firsthand experience of what is needed to be prepared, at least to some degree, and we certainly should not be taken off guard again.

But I wonder how long the memory will last and how prepared we will stay.

Staying up-to-date

Will our emergency kits be up-to-date a year from now? How about two years from now, especially if we don’t have to use the kits in the next two years?

Think about your first-aid kit or other emergency kit you once put together. Do you know where it is? Have you replenished its supplies lately? Are there fresh batteries in it? Will the kit work if there is a true emergency?

And while this year’s extreme level of winter weather for Alabama has given us plenty of time to think about being prepared, we also can plan to freshen up our kits annually around this time.

After all, February is now Disaster Preparedness Month for Alabama Baptists. It not only is a great time to review our personal emergency plans, but it also is a good time for churches to host activities for church members and the community related to the theme.

Disaster Relief funds

Church leaders might also use the annual observance as a time to review their disaster plans and appoint a few members of the congregation to serve as point people for any disaster-related situation that might occur.

Two good websites about this topic are www.sbdr.org and ready.gov.

Be sure to check out the annual Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) offering resources at the sbdr.org site as well.

A $1 offering from every Alabama Baptist church member once a year would allow DR officials to maintain and upgrade necessary equipment in an ongoing fashion and allow them to respond immediately to a disaster rather than having to wait for funds to come in after a situation arises.

It also is a good time to consider signing up as a disaster relief volunteer. There are several ways you can serve, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions provides training opportunities throughout the state. The sbdr.org website is the best place to start. You also can call 1-800-264-1225 and ask for Mel Johnson. Be sure to tell him I suggested you call. I need all the brownie points I can get!

No matter what is right for you, your family and your church, at least think through a few aspects of being prepared for the “what ifs.” It will relieve a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

—Jennifer Davis Rash