A Project for Students and Citizens

Marion: Week Four

In Marion on July 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Mary Afton Day is living democracy in Marion, Alabama. Mary Afton is a junior majoring in public administration major at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

This past week was filled to the brim with love, laughter and acceptance. I joined other Sowing Seeds of Hope interns for another Vacation Bible School at Mt. Zion United Methodist on the courthouse square.  Growing up in VBS, I had all the crafts, tee shirts, games and songs in my bag for this VBS experience in Marion.  The children blew bubbles, created art and generally had a good time while I soaked in lessons about love and what life is really all about.

Marion may be known as the College City, but I would like to challenge that nickname with that of the Church City. There are so many beautiful churches on every corner of Marion’s landscape, and each one is as welcoming and wonderful on the inside as the out. Each is a place of community.  In Marion, church is color-blind. All are welcome anytime, anywhere. The congregations reflect an overwhelming sense of community pride and love for others.

Along with the churches, there are other things that create a place for all to come. As Mr. David Austin of the Frosty Cow put it, “Ice-cream is color blind.” His retro ice cream parlor on Courthouse Square brings the citizens of Marion together. He takes pride in knowing the “regulars” and their orders as well as being welcoming to newcomers and creating any ice cream concoction imaginable. We joke about “if you feed them, they will come” but Mr. Austin’s Frosty Cow takes that and runs with it.

With over a hundred degree heat this past week, the town showed up for ice cream—bumping into family and friends and comparing ice cream delicacies.  Along with the welcoming arms of the many churches in the area, Mr. Austin’s Frosty Cow helps provide a wonderful sense of place.

Another local treasure comes with sound. Who doesn’t love those old summer hits of the 70s and 80s? Or, for my generation, the catchy tune of “MmmBop” by Hansen? Well, Mr. Charlie’s store, Nostalgia Never Grows Old, is a decade-themed coffeehouse and bookstore in Marion.  Before opening the coffee house, Mr. Charlie worked with the Ringling Brothers Circus. His travels gave him an understanding of a wide range of culture and literature. Open only on the weekends due to his job at Judson, Mr. Charlie’s coffeehouse is a nice gateway to years past and its music. Old family photos from the late 1800s paper the walls and old newspaper stands hold Time magazines and Saturday Evening Posts. Mr. Charlie sits outside the front door with a half-smoked cigar and a welcoming smile telling anyone who comes by what new pastries and pies are waiting inside. It is a place where time is no concern. The custom clocks tell the decade that matches the music that plays over the speakers.

Marion is a place of history, but it is also a place of unique individuals and places. Engaging in the community is as easy as going to a Sunday or Wednesday church service, getting a scoop of ice cream, or relaxing to the hits of the past. Simplicity, just like I learned at Mt. Zion’s VBS, is the best way to live, meet and be.

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