decatur - 1 mar 2012

I keep thinking about what I wrote the other day in Yeah, I’m a Decaturite now. and why. I think I was probably overly harsh. I was feeling hurt and lashed out. Why has Decatur always “rubbed me the wrong way” and why am I so reluctant to embrace it now that I live here?

As a non-Decaturite but a DeKalbian living within a few miles for the past twelve years, I have known quite a number of Decatur folks, and, in all honesty, I love, love, love them. They are great folks, and I’m honored to now call them my neighbors.

But as an outsider visiting Decatur, I have always found most of the people I encounter in and around Decatur to not be very friendly, to be a bit snobbish about the fact that they live in the hippest place on earth, or to be completely unapproachable. Are they too-cool-for-me? Are they introverts that fear outsiders? Are they all simply chronically depressed?

Now that I live here, I still feel that way about the people I encounter. I admit, I’m an introvert. It is a challenge for me to get out and be a part of the community. But I am putting out an effort. Every day, I am on foot somewhere in Decatur. And I try to look everyone in the eye and greet them, from the smart dressed business folks/lawyers to the hip teens loitering on the square to the panhandlers. And overall, the people just don’t look other folks in the eye. They don’t smile. They don’t greet one another. Sure, many of these people may just be passing through, not “Decaturites”.

But, last week, I went to Chloe’s school a number of times. On Thursday, I stood outside waiting for her, and PARENTS of kids at her school wouldn’t meet my eye, wouldn’t say “Hey”. That doesn’t help me to change my opinion of this place. Is everyone a northern transplant and thinks it appropriate to avoid personal contact? I think I have finally been able to pinpoint what bothers me about Decatur.

Is it me? I know I’m not gorgeous, but I like to think I have a friendly, welcoming demeanor. And I suspect that’s true given the number of requests for directions I get. So I don’t think it is me…

I’m trying to embrace this place. I’m volunteering, I’m taking the Decatur 101 class to learn all I can, I’m out and about trying to meet people both in person and on line. Is it really too much for me to expect people to be friendly?

As an outsider trying to find my place here, I’m trying to make the best of it, but I would like Decatur in general to work a little harder at being friendly and welcoming. Maybe then it would be a place that I would be proud to call home.

And if you see some crazy lady in Keens with a camera around her neck trying to greet everyone in Decatur, well, that’s me. The one-woman welcome wagon. Say hi. I promise I won’t bite nor will I hug you for being the first person to be polite.