December of 1991 was the first time I drove east on I-20 into Columbia County, and in January of 1992 I moved here. That was 21 years ago. To Martinez and Evans, I say thank you. Thank you for 21 great years. Thank you that there is still a place where people open doors for one another and let each other pull out in traffic. We can still be polite. We can look up from our smartphones long enough to have a conversation or at least share a smile. What a novel idea. Simple courtesies like these make living here better.
Money Magazine reported in 2013 that Evans was No. 43 on the best places to live list. I wonder, did they spend any time here? Did they meet any of our folks? If they had, that number would skyrocket toward No. 1. People make the difference in life.
My experience tells me that if you follow the golden rule, people will respond in kind – at least the places I go: home improvement stores, grocery stores and church. Those who have a church family and are involved in a church know that people can change your life. My wife and I have a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old, and all they have known is a good church family who help one another and serve God. If you belong to a church family here in Columbia County you are blessed. If you have a neighbor who will pick up your mail while you are away, or watch your dog or put your trash can by the road, you are blessed.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read “Too blessed to be stressed.” We use the word “blessed” so easily, yet we so easily focus on the negative – government shutdowns, inflation, and people hurting one another. But would we pack up and leave in search of a better spot if we didn’t have to?
We have the influx of great military families from Fort Gordon. Yes, they come and go, but they are serving our country and we are blessed to have them in our community while they are here. And we can make it even better through our own relationships with one another and caring for our neighbors.
We can’t always rely on the other person to do what is right. It is up to us. And so Martinez, Evans, Grovetown and Appling, keep on being polite, care for one another and we will have a peaceful, positive place to live. I hope my family has had a positive impact on this community. We love it here but a future ministry waits for us, and once our daughter graduates, we will be heading back out I-20 to wherever God leads.
(Mike Klaus is the former youth minister at Westside Christian Church and the former senior minister at Columbia County Christian Church.)