Two days ago I had a conversation with a new friend, and her words have left dents inside my heart..
We were talking about travelling, about exploring the vastness and beauty of America and other countries; she is well-travelled and offered some incredible stories! At some point during our conversation, I asked her if she had ever visited the South.. I invited her to come to Alabama.
"That place scares me", she said, "I can't think of any reason to visit there.. I've heard terrible things."
Those words were a sledge hammer against the strings of my heart. As much as I wanted to disagree with her and vehemently protect the ego of my home.. I just stared back at her with a hot sadness. Because although in many ways she is right... she doesn't know what I know about my home - that there is hope. I feel sometimes it is impossible to accurately describe hope to someone who doesn't have the will yet to believe in it.
I come from a place that many people do not associate with enlightenment or positive vibes.. truthfully my friend's comment is not an isolated thought.. she shares the same view as many people. The South, and especially Alabama are places that have a reputation as backwards-thinking, non-progressive, severely racist, uneducated, and hopeless.. our past has not given us room for a second breath.. we are still choking a bit on the influence of previous generations.
But... we will not stay that way. Change is happening. Right. Now.
The only reason a place stays the same is if the people living there remain the same.
There are no spells holding a city or a community, or a state, or a culture to its past.. there is nothing in the land that says, "You must always be this way."
Our future is malleable, it is merely a reflection of our own presence or absence.
I believe that many of us are born into cultures - and it seems as if the present way of thought is all that has ever existed. We often don't question the ability for change, because (in our minds) that culture seems so permanent and so rooted in a place. But that is an illusion!
The only thing required for changing a place, is loving it - bringing affection to it, and not abandoning it to its past.
I have a vision for my home. For Montevallo, for Alabama, for the South, for the New South. I believe in the transformation of our culture from the inside out; not losing our traditions, or our 'Southern-ness'.. but becoming a place that generates goodness and no longer apathy. I am discovering friends with the same vision, who share the same hostility towards repression.. friends who are investing their abilities and intention into our home. That gives me so much raging joy!
I think that before we can fully love anyone or any other place in the world.. we must first begin to love the place we are from. The more desperate it is.. the more love you must create for it.
My home.. Alabama.
I love you for what you will become.