Front Porch Chats
By: Shannon Courington
In the middle of what is usually a boisterous, lively week in Jackson and Leroy, there is silence. Instead of talking about the upcoming start to the 2018 high school football season, the community is mourning a deep loss. No one seems to be interested in the Battle of the Tombigbee this week, although it is supposed to kick off in mere hours. Jackson Academy was slated to travel to Linden to take on the Marengo Longhorns, but right now no one’s thoughts are on the games.
Instead, our thoughts are with the families of two 16-year-old boys who were killed tragically while traveling a road familiar to them on Tuesday afternoon. The mothers to these boys have each taught our children. The boys themselves had achieved high honors in their classes at Jackson Academy and had been recognized for having the highest averages in various subjects. In a small community, we each have a connection somehow to the families affected by tragedy.
The support and love shown in the hours since the terrible accident has been remarkable. Jackson Academy students gathered at the school Tuesday evening to comfort one another, to grieve together and to pray corporately for the families of their classmates and friends. They were joined by their teachers, their parents, alumni and concerned members of the community who are not affiliated at all with Jackson Academy.
“You just never know,” we say this so often. It’s our go-to phrase when we don’t have the words to express the shock and horror over an unexpected loss such as this one or an unforeseen diagnosis. No, we truly never know when heartbreak may strike us, our children or our extended families, but we have learned through the years in this community, that when tragedy comes, no one is alone.
Small communities are often looked down upon because everyone seems to know everything about everybody else. On an ordinary day, this “awareness” can be annoying. However, when there is hurt in the community, we appreciate the prayers, the encouraging words and the acts of kindness. We also are keenly reminded of the importance of first responders. We are reminded that our firemen volunteer their time in order to keep our communities safe; that policemen and deputies are critical members of the community, that EMTs have an enormous amount of responsibility. We are also reminded that at the end of the day, they go home to invest in their own families after saving members of ours.
There are not adequate words to communicate the magnitude of the losses that families in our area are experiencing right now. May we all confront the tragedy with courage and meet the needs of the ones who are hurting. May we live intentionally, making an effort to offer a simple “hello” or a smile to a stranger. Pick up the phone. Make an actual phone call to an old friend or to a neighbor that you’ve been too busy to catch up with. Let’s evaluate our busyness and prioritize our lives. Let’s attempt to live less out of habit and more out of intent.
Let’s reach out to those who are hurting with our prayers, our words and our actions every day, not just on days that force us to reckon with loss.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.