Listening with the ears of a stranger

Today’s column comes from Savannah, Georgia where I have the good fortune of joining the Carl’s Jr. franchisees that are holding their annual meeting in this gem of a city.  Carl’s Jr. is Hardee’s sister company with locations mostly on the West Coast.  I could not let these good friends come to Georgia without welcoming them to the Deep South.
I was a bit surprised at them coming in the middle of September given the temperate temperatures where most of them live.  As most of you know, our Summer extends its humid hot days well past the official start of Fall.  Even the Carl’s Jr. locations in Arizona and Texas with their high temperatures have a much lower humidity level than southerners are used to.  
I was relieved that the intense heat of the late Summer seemed to have eased off just prior to their arrival.  Nevertheless, church fans were in constant use during our tour of the city this afternoon.  “Is it always this humid?” one visitor asked me.  “If they only knew”, I thought to myself.
Despite dozens of visits to Savannah over the years, I decided to take the trolley tour with my friends.  Most of them had never been to Savannah, or even Georgia for that matter.  It was a delightful excursion in more ways than one.
For one thing, I listened to the tour guide as he talked to a crowd that knew almost nothing of Savannah’s history.  Their questions and his responses caused me to realize that I may have forgotten just how incredible this city is relative to the history of this nation and state.
I began to listen to the dialogue as a first time visitor myself.   Places I had visited years ago or even two months ago took on a new importance.   I realized that I had begun to take this city for granted and did not appreciate what it must mean to a total stranger.
Savannah is home to the first public museum in the South.  It was not only the home to Juliet Gordon Lowe, the founder of the Girl Scouts, but also Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin.   At one time Jones Street was estimated that to be home to 10% of America’s wealth.  It was here that the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses” was coined.
My point really isn’t about how many interesting facts there are about Savannah.  It is really more about how we become jaded about the beauty of where we live until someone comes to visit.  At that point, we clean up the house, clean out the closets, and put our best foot forward.   
Do we sometimes sell ourselves short on Southwest Georgia?  Despite its challenges, it is a remarkable place to call home.  It may not be the home of the cutting edge restaurants or fashion.  It may not have mountain streams, waterfalls, or world class architecture.  It does have, however, its own set of characteristics that make it a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Georgia and more specifically, Southwest Georgia, has a deep and rich story that is important in our nation’s history.  Those of us who call it home know many of the secrets that make the Deep South unique.  We don’t always do a good job of helping others understand how special our home is.
I will go back home in a few days with a new appreciation of Savannah thanks to the visit of so many West Coast friends.  I hope to look and listen anew to that part of Georgia where I live with the hopes of rediscovering it as a first time visitor.  In doing so, I may rediscover why I chose to spend my life here in the first place.
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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]
 
       
    
    

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