Living Democracy

Weekend "Waves" Open My Eyes

image of classic blue and white truckI was volunteering at the Pea River Outdoors canoe and kayak shop in Elba this Saturday when my community partner, Justin Maddox, decided to invite some relatives over for lunch after business had come to a halt.  He brought wheat buns and prepared Italian sausages and peppers on a Dutch oven beside the fire pit next to the shop.

Two of Justin’s cousins, Trey and Griffin Martin, and Trey’s fiancé, Alicia Frazier, arrived just as the coals were being lit.  A bit later Justin’s aunt, Betsy Martin, came to visit as well.

“I think it’s about ready,” Justin said as he reached for a pair of tongs.  As he lifted the lid from the smoldering pot, the fragrance of well-cooked meat and vegetables filled the atmosphere, putting a smile on everyone’s face.

As we sat back in our chairs to enjoy our meal, I noticed just how friendly of a town Elba is.  We sat in plain sight of the road and watched as the cars leisurely drove past into the neighborhood behind the shop.

It seemed that almost every person who passed us waved hello.  I almost felt guilty for being so surprised at this simple gesture of kindness.

But these weren’t normal hand waves.  These waves were backed with a feeling of familiarity as if they’d known us all our lives.

Coming from a larger city I was caught off guard by these strangers’ noble acts.  But Griffin explained, “You’ll come to learn that everyone around here waves whether they know you or not.”

But just what is it that makes these people so courtly?  From the outside looking in, I was always under the mistaken impression that some small town  “folks” were just rednecks who only valued hunting, football and beer. But this weekend in Elba my perspective was drastically shifted.

I’ve only been here for a little under a week and already my eyes have started to open wider, allowing me to see the beauty here. Many of the Elba residents have had the privilege of traveling all around the world, yet they found themselves back here in Elba, a place many, even in this state, know little about.  But maybe that’s the secret.

The idea that Elba is a hidden gem, a place of refuge, is prominent here.  I can’t help but think that these people are so joyful because they just might’ve found a paradise.     However, to me, the idea of living and dying in the same small town is terrifying and depressing. I’ve always been a dreamer with big dreams of life in the big city.

But I’ve discovered a part of me, oddly enough, that is envious of the people of Elba.  Their lives seem so simple yet perfect.

There’s a one in a million chance someone will make it big in a world of seven billion, but in Elba, the odds are only one in 3,940.  And it’s not hard to get famous when everyone already knows you by your first name.

Where there are more people there’s more privacy, but too many things get overlooked or unnoticed.  On a smaller scale, the people seem to have more control of their own lives. So in truth, towns like Elba are not relics of the past, but cornerstones of the future.     

By Jelani Moore
Last Updated: June 03, 2014