junior from Paducah, Ky.
With school back in full swing Murray has once again been delightfully overrun with fine young men and women who make up the student population. This swell in numbers is great for our small town, not only for local growth, but for bringing in new ideas and a cornucopia of cultures to the town. One could say Murray would not be the same without the University.
But what is often overlooked in the resident-Murray relationship is everything this town has to offer. As a woman about town, I often hear negative remarks in reference to our college town. Although generic remarks about Murray’s lack of size are most frequent I recently overheard a young student say, “Oh my God, this is literally going to drive me crazy. Like, I hate this town sometimes. Everyone knows, like, everything about everyone.”
I can’t argue with this. Everyone does know everything about everyone else. However, I disagree with the idea of this being a negative thing.
Murray has only been my home for two years. Before moving to Murray I was a student at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. I enjoyed Lexington, as there was always something to do and see. But with this bustle comes the complexity of daily life in a city. Time moves quickly and one easily becomes anonymous, a number.
It’s hard to decide if my presence made much difference in the community. What role did I play in the lives of those I interacted with daily?
As I learn to call Murray home I feel differently about the importance of my existence. I have become a less selfish, kinder person for it. In Murray I like to think of myself as a member of society. Yes, Murray is small and news travels fast. Because of this I have learned (the hard way, no less) my actions and words do affect those around me. Because of the town’s size all news comes full circle, and quickly.
So I realize my relationships with people, even strangers, are important. I thoroughly enjoy knowing my bank teller, mailman, grocer, bartender and cab driver on a first-name basis. Over the years, with persistence of reciprocated kindness, these relationships have developed into meaningful friendships. Perhaps it seems silly to some, being friends with the man that delivers your church pamphlets and bills. But to me it elicits a feeling of camaraderie and community.
To prove my stance on said feeling of camaraderie and community I will lend a personal story. The setting: a beautiful summer’s eve on which I attended a social gathering at a friend’s house on Farmer Avenue. I arrived on location via bicycle and thought to myself, “Alas, Hannah, you are among friends. There is no need to lock your bicycle to the porch. Surely.”
Well, as seems to be my luck, stepping outside, I discovered my bicycle was nowhere to be found. I searched the yard to no avail and traveled home on foot. I was very upset and all I wished to do was sleep and forget, which I did. In the morning I was reminded of the events from the night before by the empty void where my bicycle is usually parked. So I did as any respectable woman would do. I went inside to wreak havoc on the contents of my refrigerator, cuddle with my dog and pout. Sure enough, as I wallowed in self-pity, I heard a knock on my door. Uncaring of my current state of dishevelment I opened the door to find the manager of my place of work holding my bicycle and smiling.
Here’s the general hypothesis of the events that took place: Someone, supposedly walking down Farmer, decided they could save themselves the deathly long walk to the Night Owl by taking a bicycle that appeared to be left there for nothing more than their personal use. So they pedaled on down to the dance club to get down to what I’m sure was Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.”
That or pretend to be worldly by smoking Grateful Dead flavored hookah. The great news is that they saw no further use for my means of transportation. To this day I have no idea who called my workplace. I am also unaware as to how this person knew the bicycle was mine.
This act of theft gone right is an example of why belonging to a community can be such a beautiful thing. I like to believe the reason my bicycle is still in my possession is because I participate as a positive part of a larger whole.
It may have been luck. It may have been a friend of mine that called. But couldn’t it be due to some act of kindness or some friendly interaction with one of those numerous people I have contact with on a daily basis? I think so, and it makes me all the more willing.
It is fickle and likely fictitious to say kindness is an altruistic state of mind. I believe this is due to the role reciprocity plays in our daily lives. There is a theory, by Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom”, that reciprocity is a large variable in the equation to happiness.
In accordance with reciprocity he states, “gossip and reputation make sure that what goes around comes around – a person who is cruel will find that others are cruel back to him, and a person who is kind will find that others are kind in return. Gossip paired with reciprocity allows karma to work here on earth, not in the next life.”
In my humble opinion, Murray is a great place to exercise this theory for one’s own benefit.
A larger city may provide more activity in daily life but it is possible actions may be lost or forgotten in the shuffle. Conversely, the interdependent community of Murray will not only give back all that you give, but cares enough about individual existence to reciprocate.
To conclude, I would like to rally for cognitive focus on the positive aspects brought so effortlessly to us by our small college town. Develop a collaboration of kindness with your neighbors, friends and acquaintances. Practice a positive position in society to allow for growth while in the comfort of a a more simple setting and carry on to pay it forward.