Archive for Thursday, August 19, 2004

Small-town advantages made clear in Eudora

August 19, 2004

This is my second summer in Eudora, having moved from Lawrence in May 2003. I actually grew up in a city of several million people in a country halfway around the world. In fact, if you dig a hole to get to the other side of the world it would come out around Malaysia, and not China, as is commonly assumed.
I had no comprehension of what it meant to live in a small town. I've always thought that living in a small town would mean that I would be missing out on things. But I couldn't define what these things were.
My first exposure to living in a small town occurred even before I moved here. Days after the contract on my home was signed, I got a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to know if I wanted to share the cost of putting up a fence in my backyard at my new house. It was my soon-to-be next-door neighbor.
I hadn't even had the opportunity to meet him, but already he was being neighborly by giving me the chance to save some money. In a big city, a soon-to-be neighbor would never call prior to meeting them. A small town, this Eudora.
The first week I was here, I got a visit from the "welcome wagon." The city police pulled me over for "not coming to a complete stop" at a stop sign at the ramp off K-10. The officer had initially agreed to let me off with a warning when I told him that my leg was still weak from surgery I had a week ago. I still had my cast on to prove it.
He asked to see my relevant documents and went back to his car. At this time another police car pulled up. Great, I had just moved to this town and I was stopped by two police cars. What will my neighbors think if they see me now, I thought?
Growing up in a different country and watching movies about American high school, I have always wanted to go to a high school football game. The week the Cardinals played their home opener last year my neighbor invited me to the game. I took my kids, and upon arrival the carnival-like atmosphere captivated me. My kids ran around and tried to meet new friends as my neighbor introduced me to people he knew. I was at my very first high school football game in this small town; this Eudora.
Once I was reading the paper, it was mentioned that Eudora was looking to put in its first traffic light. What? No traffic lights in Eudora? That news shocked me. How could I live in a town that has no traffic light?
I mean traffic lights are as essential as televisions. I'm a big city guy, what am I doing in a town with no traffic lights? I'm still not over it, and when I tell my friends and family that I live in a town with no traffic lights, they question the existence of a place on this earth with no traffic lights. Small town, this Eudora.
It's been a year since I moved to Eudora. I've grown to like this place and its people. The defining moment of how wonderful these people are was evident at a mid-July baseball tournament in Wellsville.
My son played on the Eudora U-9 all-star team, and most of the parents traveled to these games. After the second game, a parent jokingly suggested a tailgate after the evening game. I volunteered to bring sunshine and didn't seem to get anyone excited.
As we made our way out of the park, the talk of the tailgate was resurrected. Everyone offered to bring something, but no one kept tabs on who was bringing what. How this cook-out was going to be put together in four hours was a mystery to me.
That evening, midway through the game, I looked at the parking lot beyond the outfield and saw a couple of the parents cooking for the tailgate. I was taken aback by their selflessness to forgo watching their kids play to serve others.
After the game, I made my way toward the shelter where the party was taking place. The spread was unbelievable. Everyone went out of his or her way to make it possible. Nothing was lacking, not even the sunshine.
I finally realized that living in a small town does not mean that I was missing out but actually gaining a newfound sense of belonging to a community. Some of you, like me, may have lived or visited big cities like London, Tokyo, Paris or New York. There you might have attended parties and events with champagne and caviar.
But I seriously doubt you would have attended an event that embodied the spirit of camaraderie and oneness, as evident by this gathering put together by the people of this small town; this Eudora.
Paul Thevarajoo is a Eudora resident originally from Malaysia.

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