October 30, 2010 10:43:00 PM
I have a job answering phones at The Columbus/ Lowndes County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It''s actually rather fun work, sometimes hectic, and often challenging. I make copious notes on events in the area and try to keep the details orderly and organized.
This week, I spoke to a charming woman from Florida, who was coming to Columbus for the Decorative Arts Forum. This sort of conversation is all part of the job. But, the exchange became even more interesting when she told me that she and her husband were also meeting with a realtor. They have their eye on one of our exquisite properties, a real show-stopper near the river.
Even more remarkable was the fact that they have never even been to Columbus! This caller has done extensive research about our city on the Internet and had fallen in love. (Is anyone surprised?)
She knew the names of specific houses and was curious about some that are known to be on the market, and some that may never be. I am not in real estate, so perhaps not the best person to answer her questions.
Soon the discussion turned to other important topics, quality of life issues, the things that make Columbus special and livable. She wanted to know where I shopped for groceries and clothes.
But, our chat took a turn when she asked about race relations. Mississippi has an unattractive reputation, based on "ancient" history and the horrible way we are portrayed by Hollywood. Perhaps some of it is deserved. However, I think most contemporary residents have moved light-years forward in attitudes.
In my five years here, I have seen the races blending well, working together. My own observation is that we have few problems that are rooted in prejudice and racism. Yet, we all know the stigma is still there. It is a scarlet letter that is fading too slowly.
"We elected a black mayor," I told her, "that meant a lot of white votes." She already knew that. "You will find friends here," I added, "like-minded people with whom you can share ideas."
Unlike our TV and movie image, Columbus, and the entire state, is multi-dimensional. We have people of all types living here. Yes, maybe this area has a strongly conservative slant. But, that is not all that we are.
In New Orleans, I considered myself middle-of-the-road politically. In Columbus, I am the poster girl for liberals. But, that''s all right. Not everyone has to love me. I get a few very mean letters, and many more lovely ones. No crosses burn on my lawn. No bricks shatter my windows. And, yes, I have found many friends.
There was so much I couldn''t think of while I had her ear. It came together for me later that evening.
In the middle of a torrential downpour, Chris and I saw blue lights flashing through our front windows. We ran onto the porch to see a police car and a young man in a small truck. What we learned was that the driver of the truck had a tire blow out. The officer stood in the rain, protecting him while he changed the tire. The patrol car''s lights were to alert others driving on the street, so they would not hit him.
Last week we were both guides for the Ghosts and Legends Tour. The Columbus Police Department was there for us, following our busses, watching over our "ghosts" at their spooky locations. Our wonderful Chief St. John and Capt. Fred Shelton were ghostly actors. Fire Chief Kenneth Moore loaned the CVB walkie-talkies to use both nights.
That is what I believe makes Columbus so lovely. There is an attitude of working together. We don''t even think about race.
This year''s theme for Decorative Arts is mid-century modern. It is a look back to the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I hope Ms. Lucie, from Florida, and her husband enjoy the show. (I am sure they will be impressed with Columbus.) But, I also hope they will realize that the forum is a glimpse into the past, and that we are a city for the 21st century, where everyone is more than welcome. We are all friends.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT