The magic of connecting

By KATHY COPELAND / Guest Columnist

The lens we choose to view life through greatly impacts our actions toward others and our environment. Often serving others by establishing connections can infuse vitality into life, as evidenced by a June day at Linn Park.

A pop-up event organized by the Addiction Prevention Coalition (APC) brought resource agencies and non-profit organizations together for a few hours at Linn Park Friday, June 18. Carie Wimberly, APC executive director, excitedly welcomed out-of-town resource organizations, introducing one to the other.

“There is no one-size-fits-all-approach to prevention or recovery so there is power in collaboration,” said Wimberly.

No tents were needed for the day as humidity levels were comfortable and the sun was shining. A rainbow of colorful resource tables lined the sidewalk, each with giveaways and information on how those caught in the trap of addiction—or those who have a loved one battling this enemy—can get help.

Representatives were on hand sharing information about a program currently offered in Shelby County. PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones), currently meeting at two locations (Vestavia and Mt Laurel), is a support group for parents navigating the challenges associated with loved ones who are either experimenting or overcome by substance use. The group offers encouragement, guidance and education, parent to parent. No shame, no judgement.

“God was shining on us this week,” said Nikki Macon, administrative support manager for APC. “Last week we got rained out and today the weather is great.”

Some volunteering because they lost a loved one to the deadly epidemic of opioid addiction or to another form of substance use disorder while some of the attendees were looking for guidance on channeling their grief due to their loss.

Thanks to student groups like the one at Thompson High School, there were hygiene bags stuffed with useful items including shampoo and toothpaste free for the taking by those who call the street or a sidewalk home.

The energy of the day could be felt approaching Linn Park, a beautiful green space in downtown Birmingham, ideal for an outdoor event. Most notable, the servant heart of those participating. The worker bees setting up the event were smiling, the resource representatives sitting at the tables were smiling and even those who were traveling by golf cart making sure litter was going into its proper place, were smiling.

There was visible passion in conversation with Edward Taylor, who was instrumental in the organizational mechanics of the Addiction Resource Fair Pop-up.

“I am grateful for each day. I say a prayer every morning thanking God for freedom,” Taylor said.

Taylor, now four years sober from the stranglehold of heroin addiction, has recently joined the APC staff as the prevention program coordinator and is dedicated to helping others find hope.

Friday was a showcase of the hearts of people dedicated to fighting the savage attack of substance use disorder on our fellow humans; young, old and all ages in between. It was an outpouring of hope for a better day, tomorrow. It was a day of connection. Connecting people and organizations who want to help, with those who have the same goal.

There was no violence. There was no pushing in line for free pizza. There were no arguments over masks. There was no racial tension. The only visible guns were on the police officers assigned to oversee the event and they were smiling as they interacted with passersby.

Free ice cream was a treat on a warm sunny day and again brought smiles as occasionally that last bite melted from the stick too quickly. And when the day was done, a few men who planned to use the hygiene bag as a pillow, were helping carry tables to the van for loading.

Magic is found not when we work to identify how we are different but when we unite over what makes us the same. We are all vulnerable in one way or another. Working together and connecting human to human is what results in direct impact.

APC and every resource, agency or organization participating deserve kudos for creating magic through connecting.

Written by Kathy Copeland, an avid APC volunteer who lost her son to heroin in 2014.