Saturday, August 4, 2007

Midwest Hospitality

When we moved to Los Angeles 12 years ago, I was surprised to find that people just weren't as friendly. Laid back, yes... friendly, ehh... friendly as people from the Midwest (Iowa, particularly), there was no comparison. Before moving, I remember my husband stopping to help pull a car from a ditch in the middle of the winter. In L.A., people only helped if you were holding up traffic.

I was still the same person, so I did all the things I was used to. I would talk to strangers in the grocery store but they would usually avoid making conversation. Maybe they thought I was talking to myself. My favorite thing to do was make cookies or a pie when a new neighbor moved in, but they literally looked at me like I was crazy. I was always curious if they actually ATE what I delivered.

We're back in Iowa now and I'm happy to be feeling the Midwest Hospitality in full force. I knew I was "home" when, over the course of several days, many neighbors stopped by to drop off cookies and introduce themselves. I'm quite delighted to be able to return the favor to new neighbors that really appreciate it. I'm also glad to see that my husband still has that Midwest charm too. The other night around 10 pm, a truck blew a tire in front of our house. My husband went outside to help them change the tire...I giggle because I know in the back of my mind he was trying to get it done before the AAA guy showed up. Not that he was in a hurry, he's just competitive like that. He could have finished the job faster, but the three men in the truck had never changed a tire before so he was spending some time showing them how to do it in case there was ever a next time. That was cute though because it was one guy doing the work and three guys standing around watching. I couldn't help but ask the Police volunteer who was on-scene "How many guys DOES it take to change a tire?"

But today it all really hit me hard. Early this morning, I stopped by a neighbor's house who was having a yard sale. I selected some books for the kids, but the items actually belonged to a friend of hers who had not shown up yet... and they weren't priced so she couldn't sell them to me. She set them aside and asked if I could stop by later. I told her the most I wanted to pay and said "Just put them back in the stack if it will be more than that." When I showed up a few hours later, I had the girls with me. Knowing there wasn't anything else I needed, I only brought as much money as I told her I would spend. My 4½ year old had a few Chuck E Cheese tokens, some pennies and a quarter that she brought with in case she found something she wanted. Well, she did... a stuffed beanie-type duck that cost 50¢. I told her she needed to find two quarters and she promptly handed the woman a quarter and a token. The neighbor smiled and said "Thank you". Unfortunately, my almost 3 year old had continued to shop and found herself a doll for $1. I tried to talk her out of it to avoid having to run home for more money. In the midst of all of this, another customer at the yard sale walked up to my little one and handed her a dollar. She said "This is so you can buy your doll." I thanked the young woman and said "That's not necessary." She smiled and said "It's okay." I'm still smiling hours later just thinking about the whole event. Los Angeles was a great place to live with lots to do and beautiful places to go... but you can't put a value on a gesture like this. You just don't realize how important such hospitality is until you lose it... and gain it back again.


  • Collateral5

    Ahh good old Iowa.

  • Stephanie

    I am really enjoying your blog entries. I find myself smiling as I read them, and being able to relate to alot. I was raised in Silvis. Shortly after my parents moved the family to the Galesburg area when I was 18, I moved to a Chicago suburb to live with a family and work as their son's nanny, and the family's housekeeper. I behaved the same way you did when I would go out. Talking to people, holding doors for them, smiling, helping if I could. I was always glared at or looked upon as a crazy person. I only lived up there for 3 months, and sad to say, by the end of that time, I had changed and was not as nice as I wanted to be when out in public. I was tired of being pushed aside, having doors basically slammed in my face going into stores, and people giving me dirty looks. I think the world needs more people like you and your husband. I live in Monmouth now and try to help people as much as I can, have a smile on my face, and make small talk with anyone. It's a great feeling, especially when it's appreciated, and sometimes even returned.