The following is an article I wrote nearly eight years ago as a guest columnist for our local paper. There is a reason I share it with you today. Changes are coming. But, before I delve into that, I give you a little about where I where I was and where I am today. Tomorrow I will share a little more . . .
During rush hour, or heck, any hour on one of Chicago’s many expressways and even the calmest and most patient person will have psychotic tendencies, but not here. I haven’t sat in traffic once since I arrived here. But I didn’t come to talk about the traffic. It brings back bad memories.
I could talk about how parking in this small Ohio Valley town is anywhere from 75-100% cheaper than in Chicago or Detroit. I could mention how I have never seen so many family and community events that seem to take place nearly every weekend. And then, there was the real county fair I attended this summer where I saw the largest pig in the world…I think anyway. Although I could go on forever about my small town versus big city experiences, it is something else that moved me to write this.
The people. I don’t know if it is the calmness of the river, the gently sloping hills, or simply that time just moves a bit slower here, but the people here are different. I am no expert. I hold no degrees in psychology or sociology, but I have lived in quite a few places before I came here. I’ve heard the hostility in the voices of children while walking to school in Detroit. I’ve seen the impatient crowds hurrying along the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. I’ve walked out of a few stores in Atlanta after being shunned by busy store clerks. Although the culture, entertainment and shopping were often outstanding, it wasn’t always pretty.
The other day I walked into the store and witnessed a miracle, a small miracle, but significant nonetheless. The store was busy; after all, it is Christmas. A line started to form behind the only open register. I stepped in behind the last person and drew my usual sigh of despair. I learned to do that in Chicago where you were required to show your frustration with anything that didn’t move at the speed of light. At that moment I observed something amazing. People were talking…to each other. They were laughing and smiling. All I could think was, “Where am I?”
When my turn came at register the young lady smiled and said, “Hello, how are you?” She even waited for me to respond. There was no aggravation in her voice, no frustration in her movements as she placed my items in bags. I explained briefly to her that I had recently moved here and was amazed at how friendly most everyone was, regardless of the situation. She responded with something that was not unlike a piece of modern poetry, “Honey, that’s just the way we are.” With that she smiled, her voice hinted a bit of laughter.
When I first got here, I was a little worried. I didn’t know what to expect. But with these beautiful rolling hills in place of magnificent concrete structures, the infectious smile of a store clerk instead of the bustling crowds of the city and the mooing of a few cows in place of honking horns in traffic, I think I’ll be OK. To my friends in the city, please come and visit. You’ll love it. And, to that friendly store clerk with the infectious smile – Thank you.