How is it that you, as Oglethorpe County citizens, want to be known? By the outside world, that is–by our neighbors in the surrounding counties, by the rest of Georgia, by others from farther away than that?

Southerners have long been known across this nation for being friendly and polite. This I have heard often as I have traveled all over the world.

So I ask it again: how do you want to be known?

Another Oglethorpe County resident once told me that she had been informed she was an outsider. She had responded to such name-calling with the news that she had been born here. She received the response from a prominent Oglethorpe resident “Well, your grandparents weren’t!” Even though those words were not delivered in anger and might even have carried some jest with them, my acquaintance was–to say the least–taken aback.

No, this isn’t a response to Louise Griffith’s recent letter-I know how nice she’s been to me! She certainly wasn’t talking about this outsider in her letter.

Okay, let’s get something straight. I really am an outsider. I wasn’t born here but I was born in Gainesville. (That makes me less of an outsider than some of those that come from other states or countries, doesn’t it?)

Oops, but my family! Momma’s side is pretty strongly Southern and have been here for generations. But Daddy! Talking about outsiders! Sheesh, the man was from New Jersey. His grandparents were from Poland and Ireland! Oh, dear, oh dear!
Not only that but Daddy’s family was (and is) majorly Catholic. Gasp!

It’s true that many of us can trace our American family roots back to previous centuries; it’s just as true that all of us have family members that may not be that recently American or Southern. Many folks in the Athens area are also fond of talking about their Native American roots (I never heard that in Gainesville). Nope, we are all more than just Southern or even American.

I’m really, truly proud to say I come from a melting pot of people. Traveling abroad was, yes, broadening. It’s a wonder to me how other countries have such personalities. The Germans were truly an engineering marvel–sticklers for rules. To live there you meet a people, not just many people. I found that to be true of other nations as well.

My son is a great example of the melting pot phenomenon. Not only is he of Southern, anglo-saxon descent; not only is he descended from those Irish-Polish Yankees but he also is Spanish in name and in blood! Ask him what he is and he’ll probably tell you American.

We all come from immigrants, outsiders here in America. And our immigrant population continues to grow. We’ve had a large influx of Hispanic immigrants in past years and Atlanta’s and Athens’ intercultural influences continue to make this state’s population more diversified.

It’s another one of those truisms I’m fond of spouting: ‘Change is constant’. I am one many ‘outsiders’ that change has brought here to Oglethorpe County. It was only on my husband’s instigation that I even considered moving to such a rural area.
Not only that, but now I find I like it here! Why? I like the rural nature of the county and I like the people. I have found most folks to be friendly and welcoming.

But I simply want to remind you. Not everyone in Oglethorpe County is white or black-we got all shades of colors here. Not everyone is of the Christian or Jewish faiths-there are Muslims, Buddhists, and even atheists. Not everyone is heterosexual.

We are a microcosm of American society and of the American people. A little bit of everything and everyone. That’s one of those things that make this county great-that’s one of those things that make this country great.

How do you want to be known? As a community that recognizes our differences? Or the alternative? Outsiders beware: acceptance is only offered after 3 successive generations?

I do not glory in my ‘outsider’ status; in fact, I frequently forget that fact. I feel welcome here (though I’m fond of saying y’all may run me out of town when you really get to know me!)

Please extend that welcome to any of the others who may be different. Let us be known by our friendliness and by our civility. And most importantly, by our recognition of and acceptance of difference. Ah, yes, it does take all kinds…