What Lexington Needs: Small-town Closeness, by Tracie A. Handley
Photo by M. Watt
October 1994 Ace
Having been reared in southeastern Kentucky in the small town of London, I grew up accustomed to people staring into passing cars to see if they recognized someone to whom they could wave.
Moving to the “big city” of Lexington in 1986 to attend Transylvania University would, I realized, be a new and different experience. I found it to be a pleasant one, however, but my world at that time mainly consisted of the small, tightly-knit, Transy campus community.
Three years ago, after a brief stay in a tiny and wonderfully friendly town in central Florida, I returned with great anticipation to Lexington and settled in one of the big, new residential developments which seem to be springing forth at will from Lexington’s south end.
Now, three years later, I remain in that development, yet I know the names of only a couple of my neighbors.
When I wave to other neighbors in passing, I usually receive only a curious half response, or no acknowledgement at all. When I leave for a day or two, I have my mail and newspaper stopped because, save for one or two exceptions, I feel that asking one of my neighbors to collect them would be too great an imposition. While I’m gone, I don’t feel secure in the knowledge that watchful eyes are looking after my place, as I did in my previous small-town homes.
It is not my intention to imply that Lexington is a bad place. It is a beautiful city with good schools, varied cultural activities, and great shopping. What it needs, however, is a bit of small town closeness and neighborly camaraderie. Perhaps the lack arises from the somewhat transient nature of Lexington residents, or from living so close to one another in large developments where all the houses so closely resemble one another that inconspicuousness and hermit-like privacy become sought after.
Whatever the reason, I feel that Lexingtonians could benefit greatly by taking a look at some of our surrounding small towns. Notice how slowly and courteously the occupants drive, and how people stop to talk to one another on the streets or on benches in front of stately old courthouses. Take note of the homemade foods being taken to the homes of the bereaved after heavily attended funerals.
Observe how small businesses are an integral part of the community, and how people take the time to ask a question or two of a stranger at the door of a vacationing neighbor.
Let’s then turn our eyes and energies back to our own community. Let’s start to see Welcome Wagons and neighborhood barbecues, home-baked pies for new neighbors, and a lot of smiling, waving, and evening chit-chat called out from one backyard to the next.
Until that starts to happen, however, I plan to go right on waving at my neighbors and saying ‘hi’ to people I pass, even if I don’t know them and they look at me funny.
But I will also continue to visit London for some small town warmth and ambiance; and every evening, I’ll spend a little time in Mayberry. Who knows, maybe Andy and Aunt Bea will stop by with a fresh-from-the-oven homemade cherry pie.
Tracie A. Handley is self-employed in real estate investment/renovation and is pursuing a career in writing.
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