Sometime in 2011, a young man traveled to A Reprieve for Men for his first tour of the program. During that tour, he asked a prominent staff member about a concrete well cover in the backyard. The staff member replied with one of the most beautiful stories the tourist had ever heard.
This is the story the staff member told:
A Tradition Rooted in Opelika History
“In the early days of Opelika, there was a water well right here in the very spot of that concrete cover. During that time, people didn’t have all of this indoor plumbing and often had to resort to gathering water from public sources,” he shared. “Here in Opelika, the townspeople made this a social event. Every Sunday afternoon, the men would bring their buckets, the women would gossip (don’t blame the author for that part, it came directly from the tour guide), and the children would run around and play.”
The tour guide exclaimed, “It was truly a magnificent site seeing the joy and fellowship this area of town experienced when coming together for their nourishment. The tourist left that day with many wonderful memories, but the drinking well story’s joy made a lasting impression.
The Wishing Well Ceremony is Born
A Reprieve for Men residents and staff gather around the Wishing Well.
A few years later, that tourist became the director of A Reprieve for Men. One of the first programmatic changes the new director wanted to make was to add a ceremony. He wanted it to honor the townspeople of yesterday who came to the property for their nourishment. The director knew the parallel would be amazing for the residents who traveled to A Reprieve for Men to find a spiritual “nourishment.” A real wishing well was built over the concrete covering the original well. Each new resident admitted into the program would be welcomed by the community with a ceremony at the well.
So it began. The first residents participated in the Wishing Well Ceremony together. The ceremony starts with all community members creating a circle around the wishing well. The community’s existing members state one thing they wish for the new resident to achieve while at A Reprieve for Men. As each member finishes their statement, they pass a coin of remembrance, honoring the new resident, to the next community member. When the last resident states his wish, he hands the coin to the new resident. The new resident is encouraged to say what he wishes to bring to the community as a supportive brother in this new family. Once this statement is complete, the new resident drops his coin into the well. The community then locks arms to recite the “Serenity Prayer” as one unit.
Almost instantly, this ceremony became a staple of A Reprieve for Men. Since that first ceremony in 2015, every resident who has entered the program has participated in the Wishing Well ceremony.
The Real Origin Story…
So, there is one small catch to the story. Sometime in early 2016, the residents had just completed the ceremony when a neighbor asked a staff member what they were doing. With pride and honor for what was a fantastic tribute to the people of Opelika, the staff member told the story of the community well. The staff member painted the origin scene so vividly you could almost see the men with their buckets, the ladies gathered, and hear the children laughing as they ran and played.
The neighbor, who had lived next door for over thirty years, agreed it was a beautiful story. However, there was a slight discrepancy. He remembered that the city was trying to find some pipe and accidentally hit a spring about ten years earlier. The town placed that old concrete cover over it to ensure no one fell in the hole.
To most people, the revelation that the original well story was untrue may have been devastating, destroying the ceremony’s sentiment. But not for A Reprieve for Men. We never stopped having the ceremony. No, we only modified it slightly to tell both stories of the “Wishing Well.”
Our staff will never lose sight of the fact that God always amazes us with how he can use any little situation to create a beautiful opportunity for spiritual growth.
We would love for you to participate in our Wishing Well ceremony at A Reprieve for Men. Contact us at [email protected] to schedule a tour.