We must not overlook Birmingham’s biggest blessing

Many angels in Birmingham

By David Sher

A couple of weeks ago my wife went on a long walk starting and ending in Crestline Village.

She and a friend walk every Sunday and have done so for years.

Unfortunately, on that particular day the temperature was 95º with 80% humidity.

According to the National Weather Service that combination of heat and humidity creates a heat index of 136 degrees.

After her walk, she noticed a Pants Store tent sale in the large grassy area across from the O’Neal Public Library.

The tent was crowded, and, as you can imagine, extremely hot.

She found a pair of shoes on sale for our granddaughter and got in line to pay.

The next thing she knew, she was being carried  to a chair.

She had passed out from dehydration.

Everyone was rushing around trying to make her feel comfortable—giving her ice and liquids.

A Pants Store employee, who fortunately was also a nurse, supervised the effort.

The Mountain Brook Fire Department is located across the street and immediately EMT’s walked or ran over to provide additional assistance.

Overriding her protests they put her into an EMS truck and whisked her off to the UAB Emergency Department.

She is fine now, but hasn’t been able to quit talking about the Mountain Brook Fire Department, Pants Store personnel and strangers who assisted her.

While my wife was unconscious, a man noticed she was waiting in line to pay for her shoes, so he paid for them. (BTW, if anyone knows this man, we would like to thank him and pay him back).

My family and I have witnessed acts of kindness like this throughout our lives in Birmingham.

My daughter and I were in a minor automobile wreck a number of years ago on busy I-65. Good Samaritans jumped out of their cars and at great risk to themselves made sure we were okay.

My wife is a breast cancer survivor. When she had her mastectomies and subsequent chemo treatments, friends and neighbors provided meals and support.

After leg surgery a while back, I had to wobble around on crutches. Strangers went out of their way to open doors and find chairs for me when I was out and about.

Good deeds like these take place in Birmingham every day…I’m sure you’ve experienced them yourselves.

Birmingham always ranks among the most charitable cities in the U.S.

Most of you are likely familiar with our local United Way.

But you probably don’t know about United Way’s Tocqueville Society.

To be a Tocqueville member an individual or family must make a minimum contribution of $10,000 to the United Way.

Our United Way has more Tocqueville members than any city in the United States.

Our Tocqueville Society is larger than New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

Our Tocqueville Society is larger than Houston, Phoenix, or Philadelphia.

How’s it possible for a United Way in a metropolitan area ranked 50th in U.S. population to have more members than cities ten or fifteen times larger?

We in Birmingham still have a sense of pride in community.

We in Birmingham still care about and look out for one another.

Let’s not take for granted Birmingham’s biggest blessing.

David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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12 thoughts on “We must not overlook Birmingham’s biggest blessing”

  1. I hope we can get people to channel that strong charitable impulse into providing a better deal for all our citizens. I think that requires taking a more positive view of the role of government. Government is how we get together to make sure necessary things happen. Of course it can be corrupt or inefficient, and if so we need to change our leadership. But private initiative, while good in itself, can’t take the place of government.

  2. David’s story reminds me of the yin and yang of Alabama. On a person-to-person level, we have the most charitable people in the USA–exemplified by David’s encounters. But, in Montgomery, we have a government that does not want to provide for the least among us–e.g., refusal to expand Medicaid. This has always been our blessing and our curse. Sometimes I think that our non-profit charities serve as an excuse for our leaders to do so little.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Maury. I agree, but we have the smarts around here work around Montgomery “wall.” It’s time to quit putting up with it!

      I think the basic answer = government creativity/cooperation + high tech. A true 3rd-Wave economy.

      1. And caring for our neighbors in every way at every level, including government, and the proper recipe for success is pretty well complete. Yes you are right Bill.

        The rural communities have never understood the benefits they the have by living in a state with such a city as Birmingham. It revived the economy following the Civil War devastations. Thus legislative decisions that would advance the city are always voted down. The possible improvements of the city are left dangling, unattended to. Now count the number of people living in cities- counties across the state with populations above 100,000. I have and I found that Alabama is NOT a ‘rural state!” Perhaps that is a light at the end of this long tunnel?

  3. The strong support for charity is something the Birmingham metro area can be proud of. People here understand poverty. Even the more prosperous residents in our area often have ancestors who worked in steel factories and struggled for every dime. So it is not surprising that a metro area with a Rust Belt economy leads the rest of the Deep South in some measures of charitable giving.

  4. Yes, Birmingham is filled with such blessings.
    Not so much so in Nashville, Charlotte, and much less likely in Atlanta? De[pends on what neighborhood you are in. At the very least Crestline Village certainly is a great example that helps set a high standard for all, every where, and certainly in the Birmingham metro area

  5. Eloquently stated, Dave. This is why I’m proud to call our community home. There is no where else like this, and there is no where else I’d rather be. It is this uniquely rare attribute of unconscious, instinctual caring for our brothers and sisters that should give us hope in the midst of the challenges we face. If anyone, anywhere can come together for the greater good, then Birmingham surely is equipped to lead the way by its heart.

  6. Is there any city in the whole wide world, where that can happen. I do truly think Birmingham leads the way, even though it has fought its way trough tough troubles during the last decades. Such care for each other existed before that to make it possible, actually probable, to survive and become an even better place to live.

    The ‘Birmingham Pledge’ is exceptional.

    It was second in the US to have established Neighborhood Associations. Only Washington DC was ahead of us and by only a couple of years.

    Birmingham can lead. Birmingham has led and proven that is capable of continuing to lead.

    AND I am writing this about THE City of Birmingham itself. I still wish all of it neighboring communities could join together and benefit from this as well.

    There is nothing better that love and Birmingham has always had enough of that to survive every crisis that it has ever confronted.

  7. The sense of community and support among the people of Birmingham is definitely something to be proud of. The willingness to help others without even being asked is a testament to the kindness and compassion of the people there, and it so so sweet! Supporting each other and being kind in general not only strengthens the bonds within the community but also creates a positive and inclusive environment for everyone. It’s wonderful to see how the people of Birmingham come together to uplift and assist one another. This spirit of kindness and support is truly inspiring and helps create a vibrant and thriving community.

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