June 21, 2016

Let’s pray that Republic will stop, look and listen

     Secrets had nowhere to hide in our tiny apartment. Initially, our family of five squeezed into a space about the size of a three-car garage. We shared a bathroom with the visitors to NeSmith Funeral Home. You bathed early or late, around the schedule of mourners.
     As a second-grader, I remember reading a plaque on my parents’ dresser. Printed on the front of that small redwood wedge were five words: “Have you prayed about it?” Praying wasn’t a secretive thing under the roof of the white clapboard structure at 111 W. Orange St. The power of prayer was one of the pillars of Big Dink and Margie’s rock-solid faith.
This plaque was on my parents’ dresser from the beginning
of their marriage. Thirty-five years ago, Mother gave
it to me. Now, it sits on my dresser as a daily reminder.
     Our children were convinced my mother had a direct line to Heaven. If Alan, Emily or Eric had a major challenge—such as an intimidating test—looming, they asked their grandmother to lift a special prayer. Invariably, extra preparation and the comfort of Grandmother’s talk with God eased their anxiety, producing positive results. Sixty years later, the five-word plaque sits on my dresser, asking me: “Have you prayed about it?”
     I am among thousands who have prayed that our community and our environment will not be subjected to the unwanted risk of toxic contamination. Our natural resources are a gift from our Creator. He expects us to be good stewards, and that’s why this David-and-Goliath battle over coal ash is so important. God doesn’t dump pollution on us. Mankind is its worst enemy by making foolhardy choices.
     Republic Services, from its corporate ivory tower in Phoenix, has decided Wayne County—in the heart of Coastal Georgia—is an ideal spot to pile millions of tons of toxic coal ash. And from 2,000 miles away, the landfill Goliath assures us that our worries are unfounded. Easy for Republic to say, huh? Will the air its officers and directors breathe be potentially tainted? Will the water they drink possibly have traces of lead, arsenic, mercury or beryllium in it? Do the values of their homes and property risk devaluation? Does the economy of their neighbors—such as ours, the Golden Isles—stand to be disrupted?
     I pray not.
     And I pray those same ill fates won’t descend on us either.
     That’s why so many have been supporting their prayers with actions to get America’s second-largest waste-management company to do as kids learn about railroad tracks: “Stop, Look and Listen.” If Republic would stop to think about the consequences and unintended consequences of its plan, good judgment should prevail. A look at the sensitive and porous geology of Broadhurst should be another red flag. And then if the waste-haulers would listen, they would realize toxic pollution is unwelcome here—regardless of Republic’s we-can-do-anything-we-want, lopsided agreement.
     While Goliath is threatening and stomping his feet, prayers are working to slow him down. People from across Coastal Georgia and America are rallying to lend a hand to Wayne County. Energy, ideas and dollars are pouring in to do whatever can be done. They know that there is no right way to do a wrong thing, as Dr. Norman Vincent Peale often preached.
     Six months into this environment controversy, I am grateful for the answers to so many prayers. This morning, staring at that wood plaque on my dresser, I could hear my mother’s voice: “Take your conversations with God to a new level.” We should begin a series of area-wide prayer meetings, asking for His guidance in our crusade to protect the gifts He bestowed upon us.
     I know the Lord will listen.
     Let’s pray Republic will, too, eventually.