A few Monday nights ago, as I was heading home from a pretty intense cardio circuit class, I saw a big crowd gathered on the courthouse lawn. The budget session scheduled for that night must had just ended. Since the meeting was supposedly a school board versus county commission showdown and y’all know how nosey I am, I decided to stop to see what had transpired in the upstairs courtroom.
In my split second decision to stop, I forgot that I was a hot sweaty mess having just left the gym until one of the commissioners asked me if I was out for a run. I mumbled, “Uh, something like that” as I tried to smooth out my frizzed ponytail. My desire to know what was going on outweighed my desire to not have half the town see me red faced sweating like a pig in yoga pants and a Vandy tank. Moma would die if she saw me waltzing up to the town’s dignitaries in that get up.
Gathered outside the courthouse were different clusters of current county commissioners along with ones currently running, classroom teachers, school board members, and concerned citizens. The school district was on pins and needles waiting to learn the fate of their request for additional funds which would allow the teachers in this community to get a much needed raise. The county commission had their hands full, too, trying to decide if a tax increase to fund jails, schools and a raise for their own employees was needed. If you’ve been in this town for any length of time, you know schools, jails and tax increases are hot topics around these parts as they are just about everywhere else, too.
As I made my way through the scattered groups, I overheard one group of teachers schooling a county commissioner on the salaries for teachers in various adjacent counties. I listened in on a conversation two county commissioners with opposing viewpoints were having with the school director about the needs of the school district. I watched as county commissioners standing shoulder to shoulder with ones running against them in the upcoming August election disagreed on what this county’s priorities should be.
Guess what, y'all? No one was yelling. No one was hollering. No one was being ugly. They were simply disagreeing in a respectful, matter of fact manner. In fact, one commissioner was circulating the crowd inviting everyone to his annual BBQ even the people who didn’t think exactly like him. Can you believe it?
Our social media feeds, the 6 o’clock local news and the all day long Big Daddy news networks lead us to believe that we can’t have a respectful discussion when we disagree and that we most certainly can’t be friends if we don’t think the exact same way. Standing underneath the big oaks on the courthouse lawn as the sun faded in the background that evening, I knew that notion was just plain wrong. At least in Cheatham County it is. Shoot, here we can even eat a BBQ sandwich together no matter what.