Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

January 26, 2014

Ed Hungness: Small-town civility sold in our neck of the woods

There’s a reason a small town is a small town. It’s because nobody wants to live there.

The foregoing is a statement which I recently read and with which I totally disagree. A more accurate statement might be that a small town is a small town because of a lack of employment opportunities. Another possibility might be that a small town is a place where many people would like to live if it were not for family or career obligations.

Like many of our friends, with retirement came the opportunity to have some of our life dreams fulfilled. How fortunate are those of us who vacationed in northern Michigan and now call it home.

I trudged through the snowy parking lot at Kohl’s on a recent junket to Traverse City. I was on a mission to redeem a cash coupon my wife had received from a pre-Christmas shopping spree. It was going to expire and was one of those use-it-or-lose-it situations.

Another gentleman was entering the building before me. Both of us were anxious to escape the frigid wind. As he passed through the outer door he paused, turned, and held the door open for me.

I thanked him and he repeated the gesture as we passed through the second set of doors.

This act of thoughtfulness would be a rarity in Detroit or Chicago yet is common here.

Last week as I exited the post office in Kalkaska, an elderly lady with outgoing mail in hand, was heading for the entrance. We passed on the sidewalk and our eyes met and I said “good morning.”

She smiled and returned the greeting. My memory of living in densely populated areas is that strangers avoided eye contact with each other. Surely you remember your mother saying, “Don’t talk to strangers!” In our small-town environment, people look at each other and exchange greetings. Can you imagine Andy in “Mayberry R.F.D.” not saying hello to everyone he met on the street?

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