Remember, this is really Our Town by Scott Whippo
February 24, 2009 · Updated 2:09 PM
When someone mentions small town America a glimpse of my favorite play by Thornton Wilder comes to mind. Places where people are born, grow up, grow old and die. They never move from the same town. However, that isn’t the demographics of today’s America. Today, we are born, grow up, move and move again, then we grow old and die.
The community of 100 years ago probably doesn’t exist in Washington anymore except in our desire to make it exist. Many of us move to Our Town looking for that community of 100 years ago but don’t find it. In many cases, what we find is something better. What we find is better city planning, better government, broader thinking citizens and better utility districts. What we don’t find in many cases is the sense of community, the idea that we are our neighbor’s friend and helper.
Many of us have lived in large towns and cities and that was our primary motivator for moving north of Everett. We liked something about small town America, or at least the idea. Perhaps it was the less expensive housing or the wide-open spaces. Perhaps what we liked was the feeling of knowing our neighbor. Something drew each of us to this spot on the map. Unfortunately, as we have grown so have our big city ideas of existence. We are slowly losing the very things we moved here to capture.
My family keeps moving north in an effort to keep those things within reach. When I was a teenager people in Seattle would say hello as you passed them on the street and you always new your neighbor. The other driver always gave you the signal to proceed first or thanked you with a wave of the hand when you did the same for them. Seattle isn’t like that anymore.
It’s not great incite to say that things are changing. They always have and always will, but the question is; in what way will they change? We have the opportunity every day to change what we see.
If you’re not from this area originally, ask yourself why you moved to this town. Are you losing what you moved here to gain? Is it slipping away slowly? Does it make you want to take flight and move further north?
If you are one of those people that have never lived in small town America before lets talk about why they are so great.
Small towns have friendly people that know other people all the way across town. The town’s biggest crime problems are shoplifting and an occasional assault not gang wars and murder. People know their children’s teachers and the other kids their children play with in the neighborhood. People know their neighbors down the street and around the corner. Small towns have local live theater and community activities in the parks during the summer. And what is even better is small towns have the capability to bring neighborhoods together and give people the feeling of belonging.
What does it take to have that feeling of belonging to part of a neighborhood, part of a community, part of Our Town? It’s not that difficult to be part of something wonderful.
If you don’t know you’re neighbor, introduce yourself. If someone is moving in next door or down the street go say hello. If someone needs to get into your lane of traffic let them in and if they let you in wave at them in thanks. Go to the local Strawberry Festival, Fourth of July Parade and Shakespeare in the Park.
In my Smokey Point neighborhood, we have started having annual picnics in our local park to coincide with our annual Garage Sale. It’s amazing how many people get to know each other over this very simple and informal community gathering.
Marysville and Arlington still have a chance to maintain — or perhaps regain — the small town feeling of community at a time when they are growing exponentially. If you pass someone on the street, smile and say hello. If you see me on the street walk right up and introduce yourself, I promise to say hello and smile right back. If you’re in my neighborhood, I may even invite you on to my front porch for a cup of coffee and talk about local events.
Remember, this really is Our Town. The stage is set and it will be a success or a failure depending on how each of us plays our part.
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