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Guest editorial: Tom Harrison

I didn’t choose Americus. Frankly, it didn’t choose me either.The community actually chose my fiancé to fill an important role at, what is affectionately called, “The Manor”. I could have checked the “no” box when the vote was taken, but after seeing the pure joy in Diane’s eyes when she talked about her career and her personal ministry, and how perfect Magnolia Manor would be for her, the majority won. The vote was one-to-nil, with one abstention.
I didn’t have an objection to moving to Americus as much as I had just never heard of the place. I wasn’t born in Georgia and, at various times, lived in all four corners of the country as part of a whirlwind career in finance. That career had an intense spotlight on me. Most of it was good. World travel, 5-star hotels and 3-figure dinners flanked corporate boardrooms and high-valued attention. Other times the pressure and intensity of placing career first in my life caused spotlight burn. Costs were paid and regrets catalogued. Two years ago, God spoke and I walked away from the voluminous of self-importance and toward a path cleared and paved by faith. I chose Diane. Diane chose Americus, and me too thank goodness. I am now one of the City’s newest citizens.
We’ve been here a month now; I’ve learned a lot about our town. Here are a few of my initial observations; I’m sure many Americusians – or is it Americusites- will snicker at my naivety:
Traffic – While living in Los Angeles and later in Atlanta, evening commutes lasted over an hour, mostly on six to twelve lane freeways. Here, rush hours last precisely 7 minutes and 57 seconds, and on a two lane road straight through town. One-way roads took a little getting used to. Lamar going east, Forsyth heading west. I discovered it takes longer to loop around one block of downtown guarded by traffic lights than driving down Lee Street from the City’s edge to the City’s center of commerce.
Dining – I’ve enjoyed meals from the “must have” dining experiences all over the country, realizing that the more you pay, the less you actually eat. I was always amazed how one can spend $150 on a meal centered around one piece of meat. A small one at that. In Americus, it didn’t take long to experience every place epicurean. Conclusion? Relief! There are plenty of good, home grown dining options, especially downtown. And we are only a couple of hours from dosages of Thai-French-Mongolian Fusion, if that is ever needed.
People – I find it interesting that waving to one another was something to avoid in big cities; but here it’s mandatory (I didn’t want to be rude by not returned such a gesture). We’ve met a lot of people. I know my neighbors. I know neighbors of my neighbors. And many seem curious about the new folks in town. For someone who enjoyed being cloaked in the privacy that mass populations provide, I’ve been warming to the small town charm that comes with inquisitiveness.
Islands – Deep inside the southern Georgia interior are islands. In fact, I’ve counted a few right here in Americus. There’s the Isle of Georgia Southwestern. It’s an energetic place; lots of movement, tons of mental expansion. But they seem to keep on their island, rarely venturing beyond their beaches. Then there is the Archipelago of Magnolia Manor. Movement isn’t as brisk but minds are full of decades of wisdom and advice. But they too mostly stay on their island. Other sections of town seem to be on their own islands as well. History, race, Downtown-ers, Historic District-ers, Suburban-ites….this all looks like smaller cousins of much bigger cities I’ve visited and lived in. Wouldn’t it be great to see college students and the Manor residents frequenting the streets of downtown? Or see GSW residents visiting the Archipelago and MM residents surfing (the Web) around GSW’s Isle?
Other Observations
• Neighborhood sidewalks are tricky with those hexagon pavers. Watch your step. Wait, you already know that.
• Church bells ring traditional worship music at various hours of the day. How refreshing!
• The occasional rooster crowing and train whistle break the long stretches of quiet in the middle of town.
• California casual doesn’t quite work on Sunday mornings. Time to dust off the old ties for church.
• I’ve only been here one month and already have experienced a small crime incident of the “kids will be kids” fashion. I have a feeling Southern Justice was effectively applied.
• Meeting people is easy in Americus. Everybody knows you’re new so they start conversations with “Where you from?”
• Most people call me “Mr. Tom”. I like it; I’ve just never heard it before. Now, I hear it from everyone!
• If one wants to get involved in the community, there’s plenty to do.
• City Council meetings last less than 30 minutes. Wow!
• Sunday School taught by a past-President is pretty cool.
• Some people complain about things and never do anything about it. They just stand out more in a small town.
• I can handle swallowing the occasional gnat, but having them buzz my ears drives me crazy!
Adjustments are a part of life. School, marriage, children, job changes, illnesses and relocations all can bring both joy and stress. For a guy who shot through life in fourth gear, shifting to first is patience-jolting. The drive, so far, has been wonderful. If you hear the grinding of gears on occasion, that’s me learning to look at life differently. But I seem to have chosen the right car for the drive. It’s Americus made.
Diane, I change my vote…. to “yes”.