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Harrison Carter reflects on his summer of living democracy

This summer has been quite the experience to say the least. It was full of unprecedented events and experiences that I never thought I would have. Like everyone else, I was taking the past five months day by day as it felt like the world was crumbling around us.

However, the opportunity to be a part of the Living Democracy program this summer added a sense of normality to my life that I was desperately searching for. Although it was not the experience I expected when I signed up, I still learned a lot about myself and the community of Elba, Alabama.

I wish I had the opportunity to actually spend ten weeks in Elba this summer. However, because of the pandemic, we had to virtually visit and learn. I was able to make amazing connections over the phone and through Zoom. Everyone I encountered was more than happy to have a chat with me, and they all treated me with kindness and compassion. They knew we were all struggling through this experience and were so willing to help.

My favorite story I wrote this summer was about how Elba was forced to cancel their recreation league baseball season.  During my interviews for this story, community members inspired me as I heard about how they were always able to find the light in the darkness. This was a lesson I wasn't expecting to learn but actually needed to hear.

Even though this was not the summer that I expected, I was able to make friends, connect to a new community and learn lessons about myself. 2020 has been a rough year, but I believe that I will walk away from the experiences I have had with personal growth.

At the beginning of the summer, I experienced severe anxiety at the thought of cold calling people. Today, it does not even phase me anymore. Also, I learned how to connect with others who have had different journeys. I talked to dozens of Elba citizens, and each one taught me something new.

Laurie Chapman taught me about pride. She loves Elba with all her heart and was so willing to share what makes it so great. When I spoke with Mayor Murdock, he taught me about how it is to be a humble leader.

I could go on, but some of these lessons I am taking away are personal to me. If you are ever given the opportunity to partake in the Living Democracy program, I highly recommend it. Hopefully, your summer would look a lot different than mine.

Living Democracy is something people witness every day when they see people out in the community working to make their homes a better place. In each community, there are plenty of stories to be heard and actions to take. People just need to get out there and get involved.

I am extremely grateful for my Living Democracy experience and want to thank all of those in Elba who helped make this summer work. I also want to thank Dr. Mark Wilson and Nan Fairley for helping us navigate through this challenging summer.