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In an essay I wrote some time ago called “On Kindness and Courtesy,” I lamented the fact that courtesy seemed to be lacking in much of society these days.
I wrote, “There is a tendency in some persons to disregard the existence of other people and to act as if they (the other people) were not there. It is an unfortunate and disagreeable form of behavior which does great harm to society.”
These discourteous persons seem to feel that other people do not have a right to their space on earth. For the most part other people simply get in the way. You see it all the time, the results of this attitude, this form of thinking, in the rude behavior practiced by many persons today. I have certainly seen it everywhere I have lived, most recently in Portland and Beaverton. It was not always the case, though, but it has become more and more common.
Since moving to Florence, I have been both surprised and delighted in noting that in this small city of 9,420 inhabitants, this same attitude does not seem to exist. Nobody is in anybody else’s way here. People will stop walking and let you go first, they will say “excuse me” if they walk in front of you or inadvertently cut you off.
We all “carry on” — I say “we” with the full realization that, after only 11 days of living here, I am a completely accepted member of the community — we “carry on,” I say, as if we are welcome and all belong here. That is how my wife and I have felt during our few days here.
“Welcome,” everyone seems to be saying, if not verbally than in their actions.
There are a number of rather remarkable aspects to the City of Florence, only one of which — and this is the one from which all others spring — is this notion of courtesy in its residents. It is a “natural” courtesy, it seems to me, something which stems from the true hearts and souls of its residents. That is to say, it is not something which they decided to adopt in order to get along with their fellows, but something with which they were, if not born with, then taught at a very young age and took to heart. It is an attitude which I share and which makes me glad and deeply grateful to be part of.
Other aspects of our new town which I admire are the beautiful Siuslaw River — what a wonderful-sounding name! The whole town seems proud of it, naming so many things, including its high school, after it — access to what I think is the greatest ocean in the world, and my wife’s special place, the 40 miles of dunes.
Florence also contains a handsome library and, something of particular interest to me, a good, informative, well-written local newspaper called the Siuslaw News. There is much more, I know, (like the wonderful quiet where I live) that I have not mentioned or even found yet, but for now I can say that I am glad and proud that I now live in Florence, and that we feel accepted here.
George Durant is the author of a book of personal essays entitled “Essais: A Life Examined in the Style of Michel de Mongtaigne.” He and his wife have recently moved to Florence