My family often accuses me of being a difficult person to Christmas shop for. While it is true that my tastes run toward the particular and tend to lean heavily on easy-to-wrap standards such as books and records, I believe that as I get older, I’m less concerned with the item than the idea. Give me something I believe you have thought about and carefully considered, and I’m happy. The present clearly purchased at the drug store the day before is met with considerably less enthusiasm.
That said, I do have something very particular on my list this year. It’s what we call in the Uhles house a marquee item – that single big gift capable of bringing the shock and awe to present proceedings. It will, admittedly, be tough to wrap and it’s not something close friends or family will be able to procure. This is a gift only our community can grant and, in doing so, present the gift to itself as well.
This year, momentum sits at the top of my list.
I know this sounds greedy. After all, we’ve had a lot of momentum in the past few years. Renewed interest in the revitalization of downtown, a significant uptick in industry, old friends such as the Bell Auditorium and James Brown Arena beginning to prosper after long fallow periods, new friends such as those shadowy folk that can’t talk about what they do at Fort Gordon contributing both financially and culturally to the Augusta area. It’s been a bit of a boon.
But it’s a boon that requires careful care and feeding. Companies and organizations that have chosen the Augusta area can just as easily choose to leave. Remember, many of them abandoned or rejected other communities in favor of Augusta and we’ve been on that side of the coin a time or two. Should we forget the impact our Southern hospitality can have, let that slip a little – a lot of that aforementioned momentum can disappear.
This idea of the Gift of Momentum has been on my mind a lot lately because, for a few brief weeks, I was truly concerned we were building the kind of walls that can stop any forward movement and, more significantly, forward thinking in its tracks. The recent discussions, debates and diatribes surrounding the relocation of the James Brown Arena, from my vantage point, were quickly escalating to a point where the issue was becoming overshadowed by the argument. It became less about a thoughtful approach to the community’s wants and needs and how best to address them and more about picking sides and, on the very worst days, picking fights. It felt very much like Augusta’s most difficult days, when debate became less about the issue at hand and more about drawing demographic – be it racial, financial or geographic – lines of demarcation.
Thankfully, that seems (I hope) to be a rear-view issue. It is certainly time to make it one. That is why, again, I’m putting just one thing on my list this year. It’s a gift for me. It’s a gift for you. It’s a gift for the community. It’s a gift for the future. It’s momentum. Let’s keep rolling.