- Cullman, Alabama

May 23, 2012

Thoughtful people in Cullman

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Cullman was one of twenty stops I made while on book tour for “A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.” I came to town at the request of Loretta Gillespie. We had met previously at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery. When Loretta learned I would be touring with my newest release, she asked if I would please come to her part of the country.

One of the greatest blessings about touring with a book is the people I meet along the way. I knew something about the people of Cullman because Loretta had forwarded on to me stories of the aftermath of last year's devastating tornado. I had the opportunity to visit with Jimmy Simms and to hear first-hand his story of survival.

Jimmy was only one of the many thoughtful people I met in Cullman. Sheriff Mike Rainey attended the talk I gave about “A Silence of Mockingbirds” and shared a story of his own about the challenges law enforcement faces in dealing with cases of domestic violence and child abuse. You are blessed to have a sheriff who cares so deeply for the people he serves.

Service, of course, seems to be the hallmark of your community. I will never forget the story Garlan Gudger Jr. told me about the devastation of the tornado upon the town he loves so much, and how his own young son would rise each day and ask, "Who are we going to help today, Daddy?"

That's a question we all need to be asking each day: Who will we help today?

You all are blessed to live in a community where that is the question so many seek to answer. Cullman is a model for the nation. You teach the rest of us what resiliency means, and what it means to be a good neighbor. You go out and do while other communities spend too much of

their time whining about what ought to be done.

My only regret about my time in Cullman is that it was far too short. I did not have enough time to spend swapping stories with Sister Tonette and the other Benedictine Sisters who hosted me at Sacred Heart Monastery (a place holiness inhabits). I wanted to enjoy a chat

with Annette Harris over a delicious meal at Rumor's Deli, and I wanted to listen to what Dot Gudger might have to say about how we can go about being better parents and neighbors.

Thank you, Loretta Gillespie, for inviting me to Cullman, for keeping me in stitches with your one-liners and for introducing me to so many inspiring people, first through your writing and then in person.

I look forward to returning soon and when I do, I'm going to plan a proper longer visit.

God bless.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Bend, Oregon