Spending time in a small town this week has been a real eye-opener for me good-deed-wise. I realize how crusty and inward-looking I’ve become after a lifetime in the big city. In the big smoke – as Toronto is often called, courtesy of our stogie-like air quality – “dog eat dog” and “look out for Number 1” aren’t just sayings, but survival skills.
I notice it most when I remove myself from the concrete jungle and head for the hills – literally. Here in little Derby Line – located in an area known as the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont – the real survival skill is relying upon and helping out your neighbours – as opposed to avoiding them cause you suspect they’re running a grow-op.
Here, if I even think about jaywalking and tilt my torso ever so slightly toward the road, cars come to a screeching halt to let me cross. I always wave “thanks” and bolt over (which my husband finds hilarious) because I don’t want to hold up “traffic.”
As you walk or drive along, strangers give you a friendly wave of greeting and look at you, instead of past you. I’m sure it’s not all peace, love and hayrides out here, but there are definite differences from city life.
Today, for example, we stopped at a local corn stand at the end of a farmer’s driveway to buy, well, corn. It was late in the day and there wasn’t much left. A long folding table covered in scattered ears of corn was set up under an awning with an empty chair at one side. The sign hanging from the table read, “$3.50 a dozen, fresh-picked today.”
At one end of the table sat a coffee tin with a slit cut in the lid for the money to be dropped in. A piece of brown paper bag had been wrapped around the tin. On it was written, “Grandpa’s Gang.”
We looked around, but there was no one in sight. I noticed, however, that the coffee tin was chock full o’cash, which almost brought a tear to my eye. The honour system – alive and well in the Northeast Kingdom.
I guessed that the corn-sellers must be taking a break, but my husband (who’d been there before) said that, because school was back in session, the table had probably sat unmanned all day. Even more impressed, I stuck a couple of extra quarters in the tin for Grandpa and his gang.
Corn: $3.50 a dozen. Tip: 50 cents. Restoring your faith in humanity: Priceless….