That's the sign you see when you cross from Florida to the Alabama border, and of course there's that song as well. But before I came here, my thoughts of Alabama were not so sweet. First there was that football team that always seemed to rob the Dawgs of real national notoriety, then every time I head to ATL down highway 65 I pass Selma, which reminds me of Rosa Parks and George Wallace.
Then there is that perception that the state is somewhat backwards in their thinking.
But in my last 6 months of being here I see something different, until two days ago that is, and then I saw something very different. A man walked into our Toyota showroom and was greeted by one of our sales reps who happened to be black. As the rep walked away to get an interview sheet, the man walked over to another white sales rep and said, "I don't want to talk to no #$%^&@&."
After a few minutes when any one of 20 different of us were ready to go out and unceremoniously escort this "gentleman" out, a manager went over and said something you may have heard in church, a Bible study or anywhere where people are not backwards thinkers. He said, "Sir, we appreciate you coming into our dealership today, but we are all one family here, there is no black or white, and though we cannot refuse anyone service here, we can refuse to sell you a car. You are welcome to look around and thanks for stopping by.".
Sweet Home Alabama indeed! The next day a white customer walked into our Hyundai dealership which is next door, and asked to speak to a manager. We both listened to him praise one of our sales reps (who was a member of the USA Olympic Handball team, and happens to be black), and said "no one has ever been as professional or treated us nicer". And, funny thing, they haven't bought a car yet -we have to find one for them.
So here's my point, it doesn't matter where you are, as was proven in the days Jesus walked this earth, there will be people who don't get it, and possibly at one time we may have been one of those. Ignorance and prejudice have no boundary, and whether you are a Pharisee shouting "give us Barrabas" or someone who lives in a state that has a questionable history, it only matters what you and I do, how we respond, how we react in love not hate, and how we represent the Lord.
We can point fingers at other folks, but as was mentioned this past Sunday, the fingers must point right back at us and question whether we have cleared the log and backwards thinking out of our own eyes. Sweet Home Alabama is just a phrase but it seems to me now that it is definitely a place where most of the folks are really sweet. And the ones that aren't, well, we just don't pay any attention to them as Jesus didn't in his day. He continued to be who he was in spite of the reaction of others.
Now if I can just get them to quit yelling Roll Tide so often down here........
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.