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Celebrating the blessings of small-town life

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By Holly Audette
Columnist

Monday, December 26, 2016

We just finished another busy Christmas season and if you are like me, you are taking a deep breath and contemplating what the new year will bring. The crazy pace of the holidays remind me of why I am so grateful to not have to experience the same kind of business every day here. I hope you will indulge me a review of these expressed sentiments from years past that may remind each of us how blessed we are to call this area home.

We’ve all heard the comments and perhaps even made some ourselves about the limitations and frustrations of living in a small town. Everyone knows your business. Limited shopping options. No megaplex movie theater. Not enough night life. The mall is so limited.

But we are less than an hour from a huge metropolitan area with a population greater than Atlanta and those who miss or desire the hustle and bustle of a big, sprawling urban area have fairly easy access to Hampton Roads which offers just about every store, restaurant and entertainment option you could possibly want.

Sometimes it takes the perspective of those who do not enjoy small-town life every day to remind those who do, how blessed we really are. I often have guests stay with me who remark about how our quality of life doesn’t exist where they live. Awhile back I had a business traveler stay with me. When she arrived I talked about her plans and filled her in on the options she had to fill her free time here. I recommended different restaurants and made reservations for her at several. It was such an advantage to know the restaurant owners and managers personally, as they took the time to learn a little about this guest and what brought her here. When she returned from dinner, she spoke about how welcomed she felt and how personally attentive the owners and staff were to her. She came to experience “the Harbor of Hospitality” first hand.

Earlier this month we were gain immersed in the season with the incredible talents and music of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Band. The intimacy of the beautiful College of The Albemarle venue surrounded by community made it particularly special. I looked around and recognized friends and neighbors all expressing love of country and Christmas together. I am not sure it would feel the same in a big, urban setting where few of the attendees have a personal connection.

While setting out my patriotic Santa collection for Christmas, I had the opportunity to explain to another guest how so many of these pieces came to me from the watchful and considerate eye of a local shop owner. When her store was open she would search for a particular new piece for my collection each year. I truly appreciate how often I return to stores in the area because of the personal and attentive service I receive. Having lived numerous other places, I can assure you this is particularly unique to a small town.

I am coming up on the fifth-year anniversary of a fire at my home and business that could have had devastating consequences. Instead, it was the detailed attentiveness of our local firefighters, many of whom had shared a special celebration at this historic location who had a vested interest in saving it. The way this community rallied to offer help and support is something I will never forget and it truly impacted the significant sense of stewardship my family feels now toward our community and this historic property.

I recommend visiting guests ride to Weeksville to see the blimp hangar and explain to them the massive scale of the fire that engulfed the wooden blimp structure years ago. The purity of the view of stars out there takes your breath away, leaving a lasting impression. Without the clutter of ambient light, our sky view and the huge numbers of stars that are visible here is profound compared to a more populated area. In addition, the Elizabeth City State University Planetarium hosts spectacular shows for the public that help us relate our personal night sky to the world at large.

So, the next time you feel like our humble, small-town life is such a disadvantage, think about all those folks losing precious time stuck in traffic, standing in lines with total strangers and wishing they were somewhere else and thank your lucky stars your life is not whittled away by such mundane busyness.

May this new year in our beautiful rural slice of heaven find for each of us renewed opportunity to be blessed and bless others as we reap the rich rewards of living in a region where community in and of itself has great value.

Holly Audette is a small-business owner active in political and civic causes.


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