Columbia County is a great place to live.
Amidst all the grumbling, both here and next door, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have an awesome community.
Just compare us, on the surface, to other places. Homes are relatively inexpensive. Gas prices are usually well below the national average. Traffic, while sometimes a pain at the major peaks, is nothing compared to big cities.
And there are Mexican restaurants on every corner. Gotta love that.
Then, too, we have really good schools. Many parents have to struggle to pay for private school, or hope their child makes the audition for a semi-public magnet school. But here in Columbia County, private school is strictly a matter of choice; while some public schools are perhaps preferable to others, you can't go wrong with any of them.
We have a beautiful public project at the canal on one end of the county, a river running down one side of it with access from a public park, and the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi on the other end. In between are several public parks and recreation areas, with more on the way, and a preservation program for the biggest granite outcropping in Georgia outside Stone Mountain.
The summer heat may drive us to cool off in that lake, but our moderate spring and fall give us plenty of reasons to be outdoors. And the weather rarely gets cold enough to force us to shiver inside.
What don't we have here? Probably plenty of things. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, blessed to have been born here and happy with what Columbia County provides.
Every day, I'm reminded of the little things that just make this place such a joy:
The kind soul who, every morning, waves me out of Blue Ridge Drive so I can get out of the school traffic. It's a different person every day, so there are dozens of considerate folks lending a hand at traffic control.
Bill Harrell. Popular culture's favorite passtime seems to be muddying the waters of right and wrong; it's nice to know someone still understands the difference, and isn't bashful about saying so. That's Rev. Harrell, who is celebrating his 25th year as pastor of Abilene Baptist Church.
The extremely pleasant folks behind the counter at every government office. Yeah, we sometimes hear complaints, but they have never failed to be polite in handling any issue I've ever taken to a county office, whether paying for a car tag or getting my voting address changed. (The folks at the Board of Elections are especially friendly.)
Carolyn Moore and Cindy Taylor. Moore is pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church; Taylor is pastor of Church of the Holy Comforter. Both women are pastors of new churches that are in temporary homes. Both of them provide examples of positive, loving Christianity, and they put up with me even when I don't.
Rhinehart's in Evans. Yeah, seems like a small thing, but fried-shrimp addicts are just around the corner from a fix.
Judge Doug Flanagan. Even though his job as juvenile court judge puts him face to face with some of our community's saddest problems, Flanagan keeps an incredibly infectious and sunny demeanor. He even finds a way to make punishment effective and funny: Just ask a teen who's had his or her license suspended, and had to drop it in Flanagan's toy school bus.
Around my house, we have a little plastic figurine of the rabbit, Thumper, from the movie Bambi. It reminds us of what we call the Thumper Rule: If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothin' at all.
Fortunately, for those of us in Columbia County, there always are plenty of nice things to say.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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