“I believe that people in rural areas are more friendly from firsthand experience.”
I lived on the Southside of Chicago in a tight-knit community and had little knowledge of how
the rest of the world acted. In 1992, my life would change forever.
The block I lived on in St. Bede’s parish was right next to a park. It was loud, there were
commonly fights. People were obsessed with sports and getting together with the neighbors for a
few beers. Houses were so close together that you could hear your neighbor’s phone ringing, you
could even hear them arguing. What a crazy life!
One day, my father came home and he sat down and had a talk with me. He talked to me
about how he grew up in the country and how it taught him about people and valuable life
lessons. He told me that sitting at home in the city was no way to spend your summer. You
needed fresh air, good country food, and a relaxed life.
So not long after, our family headed out almost two and a half hours to the spot we would
spend our summers in Indiana. Driving there, cornfields seemed to stretch on forever and ever. I
spotted tractors, horses and farm animals, big red barns dotted the countryside. Men surveyed
their land in blue denim overalls while their wives plucked radishes from the garden. Great
forests of oak, maple and pine covered parts of the land where it had not yet been plowed for
planting. I could not wait to get out of the car!
Cracker Barrel restaurants were quite abundant and we decided to try one. Country
people in their modest clothing dotted the antique decorated restaurant. A waitress as friendly as
my grandmother and not too far-off from looking like her took my order. This was my first
encounter with true country-folk. A glass of sweet tea and chicken and dumplings was my first
true taste of the country home cooking, I couldn’t wait to get to town.
An hour or two later, we reached the town of Warsaw. It was a small town, with a grocery
store or two and a Wal-mart, most importantly a Wal-mart. Wal-mart seemed to be the place to
supply everything needed in country life. We drove past a few cornfields and
farms, and to my astonishment, people waved to us. They actually stopped everything they were
doing to wave to us with a big toothy smile. Did we know these people? My mother grew
confused and demanded an explanation, this had never happened before. My father sat calmly in
his seat and explained to my confused mother. He told her that she was now in the country and
that people are more friendly. My father seemed to be at home. My mother, a hardcore city
person her entire life would take some getting used to in the country.
After Warsaw, the small town right next door was Pierceton, an even smaller town. It
consisted of a few Victorian-style antique shops, a fire department and a video store. We got to
our place and unpacked. Here, houses were not so close, it was such a relief. Neighbors came to
greet us and offered us cookies and hugs, what a difference from Chicago. They treated us as if
we were their grandchildren. These people had a warm Southern accent when they spoke, it was
very sweet. Neighbors came for a friendly chat every night. They would bring
over their homemade lemonade or barbeque ribs, or perhaps baked beans made according to
their grandmother’s recipe. Sometimes they would bring lettuce, or cucumbers, or freshly grown
heirloom tomatoes from their garden for us to try. They were so kind and would go out of their
way to help a neighbor.
Here, people went to church every Sunday. They wore their best clothing and their whole
family went. Their belief in God made them strong in life and they believed that Jesus had saved
them. After this church service, they would come back to a home cooked meal prepared
all day by their grandmother. This would be washed down with an ice cold glass of sweet tea
Family seemed so important to them. Perhaps their family values molded them into the kind,
friendly people they were.
These people welcomed us so much, even though we were so different from them. We
dressed different, we talked different, we even acted different socially. Our clothing was not as
modest, we didn’t speak as slowly as them and sadly, we were not as friendly to other people.
But this did not matter to them, they understood.
On coming back to Chicago, we passed all the vast cornfields of Indiana and then ran into
the smokestacks of Gary. These big, ugly smokestacks spewing toxins seemed to represent
Chicago well. No one waved as we drove through the neighborhoods of Chicago, in fact no one
even made eye contact. We came back to our loud neighbors, their endlessly barking dog, and
the sports-obsessed Southside. I still get to travel to Indiana in the summer and when I do I am
reminded of how much more friendly country-people are.
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