Monday, July 06, 2015

All-America City

Before we moved to Garner, I knew that there were signs all over town saying "All-America City (2013)". However, I didn't really know why they were plastered all over town. I couldn't fathom what made Garner an All-America City, and I didn't have any type of hometown pride in any of the other cities I've lived in. Since moving here, though, I see why they promote this award so much and how fitting it truly is for our town.

First, I don't know all of the criteria for the "All-America City" award, but I do know from Wikipedia, that it is given by the National Civic League to 10 communities each year whose "citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results". I'm not sure what challenge was tackled the year that Garner won, but I have definitely seen evidence of community here that I haven't seen in any of the other towns or cities I've lived in.

As one example, we have already attended the Easter celebration and the 4th of July Celebration (on July 3rd) at Lake Benson Park. During both of these events, literally thousands of community members park in the grass (or walk or ride their bikes) and endure all types of weather conditions to celebrate with their community. You don't find many people wandering alone, but they sit in groups and call out to their friends and neighbors as they see people they know. In the group we joined for the July 4th Celebration, I met a family that I had seen before at the library story time. 

Speaking of the library, when we lived in "North Raleigh" there were 3 different libraries within 10 minutes or so and they were always crowded, but it was very hard to meet people there. At our local library, despite the construction and the number of people who attend the various programs, you generally see many of the same faces from week to week. I generally attend the 10:30am Tuesday programming (for "toddlers") but there are literally dozens of events each week at the library. It may not be fancy or even very kid-friendly (wooden-edged steps to sit on and sharp nails sticking up through the ancient carpeting). But it is full of community, I don't count every week, but I would guess at least 10 families come to each story time.

There's more "community" at the church I attend in Garner than at any of the other churches that I've attended, other than maybe Stroudwater Christian Church in Portland, Maine (which had a 15 minute break in the middle of the service just to go talk to people). I've met more neighbors in the past few months than I met in Louisville, and the neighborhoods here are much more diverse than most other sections of Raleigh. It truly is a "melting pot" of America. Considering just the number of languages, cultures, and colors represented on the soccer field (almost all of whom listed Garner as their address) I would say we are as close to "All-American" as you can be.

We talk to each other in the grocery store, we help each other move, we watch out for each other while we're out of town. We don't flaunt our wealth or hate people who have more or less than we do. We live together, play together, and eat together. I love the fact that most of the "chain" stores are on the outskirts of town, near the highways or interstates. In town you can find Jessica's Handmade Donut Shop, Aversboro Coffee Shop, Mojo's Grill, and dozens of other unique, out of the way places to eat, drink, or shop. You won't find many quick change oil places, because most people around here do it themselves. It's not the place for a Melting Pot or a Ruth's Chris, but it's definitely the place for a S'more or a barbecue. I loved seeing all the shelters full at the local parks on the 4th of July, despite some bad weather that rolled through. I love the fact that my calendar is filling up with playdates and events.

The only thing I'm maybe not as thrilled about (despite the fact that it is adorable) is that my kids are developing quite the Southern accent. We haven't lived here that long, and I'm not sure who in particular is influencing this deep Southern accent. My best guess is that it's just due to all the community. My kids talk to people at the grocery store, people at the library, people at the pool, and people at church all the time. Also, maybe it's just easier for kids to speak "Southern" than any other accent. Although, since most words turn from one syllable into 2-3 syllables, that may be a bit of a stretch, literally.

So, this 4th of July weekend, I was thinking a lot about our country and community. Despite the struggles that we're going through on a moral or political level, I wanted to take some time to enjoy the freedoms that we do still have in this country. The freedom to be with other people and celebrate our nation. The freedom to meet in churches and celebrate our religion. The freedom to live, eat, and play in relative peace. I pray that our nation returns to God, but I also thank Him that we can still enjoy what this country has to offer. Happy 4th of July, and a special thanks to all who serve or have served.

Watching the NC Symphony before the fireworks.

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