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Have You Ever Thought
That the real value of freedom is when we have the courage to use it?
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I am writing the opening words for this column as I wait to go to the Square to join in our community wide July 4th celebration. It is great to be an American. It is also a great day to recommit ourselves to using the freedoms we inherited in ways that will make our community and world a better place for those who will follow us. The real value of the gift of freedom is the fruit that comes from those who use it wisely.

In past columns I have shared many of the amazing success stories of our community when we come together. How we have helped those who are in crises whether it is a need for food or shelter or help in fighting addiction or dealing with mental illness. I am leaving out some, but the point is we can do things together that we cannot do alone.

Freedom is what gives us the means to be a true community.

You may remember a few months ago when the Ashton Hills Golf Course, after 15 years of dealing with the geese on their course, got a permit from the City of Covington to shoot the geese. Some of the neighbors came together, under the leadership of Michael Johnson, to raise funds to go another route.

The proposal was to wait a few months until late June to remove the geese in a much more humane way. It would cost about $1,500 to capture the geese and another $1,000 to pay for damage to the course while we waited for the right time to proceed. For several weeks the geese were fed to draw them to the same location at the same time. Then they were captured, and their flying features were removed. The features will grow back in about 90 days. They were taken at least 100 miles away. If all goes well, less than five present will find their way back.

Now, I tell you, I miss seeing the geese. They would often come into our yard or swim on the pond behind us. But I have hope that sometime next spring we will have some new geese “neighbors.” Canadian Geese are a protected species and they are normally a migratory bird. The area around Ashton Hills got down this spring to less than a half of dozen geese, including the two born this spring. But towards the end of May, they were joined by about two or three dozen of their “cousins” who were flying through. So I have hope that sometime next spring, a new group will come to stay for a while.

If they do, please do not feed them. I say this for two reasons. First human food is not as good for the geese as what they find in nature. And secondly, it tends keep them around too long and we have recreated the problem for the Golf Course.

If we can do this for some geese, we can do it for our neighbors in need as well. Last week the News broke the story of how several faith groups, community organizations, government agencies, and the Georgia Perimeter Technical College is seeking to answer the need for transportation in our community.

What one group cannot do by itself, several groups may be able to do together.

Last week’s paper also had a story on how government can make a difference as another story told of the groundbreaking for the new terminal of our airport. This is another step in making our community an attractive place for business. Mayor Ronnie Johnston said that in the next few months we will see more announcements that will tell of the possibility of 3,000 new jobs and a half of a billion dollars in investments coming to our community.

The challenge is will we use the gift that has been given us? We are already in the early voting period for the primaries on July 26. It is expected than less than 4 percent of the citizens of Newton will participate either on July 26 or during the early voting period.

The election in November will be important on both the national and local level. If you are registered to vote do so, if not register now so you can use your freedom to make our community stronger.

I am wrapping up the column after I saw the fantastic fireworks display over our Square. It was by far the best yet. This display is a great example of one man’s dream to make a difference is making our community better. Robert Foxworth for the last eight years has led the effort in raising funds to make the fireworks possible. In recognition of this last Wednesday, at the City Council meeting, he was presented the key to the city, a well-earned honor.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.