I live in a small town, close to a large city (Los Angeles).
We moved here about ten years ago, and I had lived and run my business for decades before that in much more populated areas and sprawling metropolises.
The differences are remarkable:
– The feeling of community, of pride in the town itself, is far beyond anything I’ve previously encountered. People are actively happy to live here.
– Regular folks meet and are friendly with members of local government, in stores and gas stations. This produces, on both sides, a feeling of greater involvement in civil affairs.
– The result is that problems are seen as something for “us” to solve, rather than for “them” to fix for us.
– The citizens are also friendly with each other. Whether they know you or not, they are quick with a smile, polite in traffic, and courteous in social gatherings. Civility is prized, which suits me very well.
– The community holds little awards ceremonies each year for the top teacher, top student, top service organization, top volunteer et cetera. There are ten categories, and the turnout is very large.
– Disagreements get discussed rather than shouted, and even politics have a very different feel. (The Los Angeles Times wrote about this effect in Iowa.) I support a local Democrat, though at the national level I am quite thoroughly on the other side; it’s no problem and we have dinner together from time to time.
– The charitable involvement is very large for a small place, and the percentage of volunteers is heartwarming. There are fund raisers of one kind or another on a weekly basis, helping homeless, orphans, battered women or whomever.
– A lot of the community grew up or spent much time in the cities; they are quick to say that they have no interest in going back.
– And, of course, you can walk the streets at any hour with no concern for your safety. When we finally had to lock our front door (not due to local situations) years after moving in, my Lady and I didn’t know where the key was.
– There are gays active in the community and in business, and they are welcomed. And there are many religions and many churches here, and non-theists, too, are welcomed and accepted. It truly feels like a community of thousands of friends.
Is it possible for someone to move here from a city, and stay holed up and uninvolved? Certainly — and to them, the place will seem unremarkable.
But that friendliness, that “small town value” feel, will pull at you — and it is hard to resist.
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