When I was in college, my best friend always told me she wanted to move to Georgia and become a “Georgia peach”. I would tell her that if she chose to do so, I would never visit. I was not a fan of the Goober State….seriously, that is one of it’s nicknames. My sole interaction with the state came from semi-annual road trips from Indiana to Tampa to visit my grandma. I remember getting to Atlanta and thinking, we’re almost there! Only to realize we still had another 8 hours! And inevitably we’d hit the city at rush hour, because that’s basically every hour, every day and the 8 hours would turn into 9 or 10. And Georgia was firmly embedded in my mind as the state that stinks. Right around the Valdosta area, there was a paper plant. Paper plants stink! I haven’t smelled it in years, so maybe it shut down but during my childhood I dreaded the ride through Georgia.
I am fully convinced that God has a wonderful sense of humor. Obviously, I now live in Georgia, Atlanta, to be exact; the bane of my childhood road trip experience. And I love it!
Change is usually accompanied by some grief or mourning of what is lost, even good change. I am happy to follow God’s Will for my life and move back to Africa, but I will miss Atlanta. So this post is dedicated to what I love about Atlanta:
1. The Food
Chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, barbeque, pimento cheese, the best mac and cheese and collard greens, just to name a few. Other Atlantans love food as much as I and there are almost weekly festivities to celebrate food. Neighborhoods offer Restaurant Weeks where you can eat at pricey restaurants for a more reasonable price. There’s a BBQ festival- amazing! There’s Taste of Atlanta in October, the Atlanta Street Food Festival, the Food and Wine Festival and the list goes on!
In Atlanta, I not only get soul food but every nationality cuisine you can think of is just a few minutes away. I can get authentic Mexican, Bangladeshi, Korean and Vietnamese thanks to Buford Highway. Lawrenceville Highway is home to some of the best Indian food outside of India. There’s Jamaican, Ethiopian, Turkish, Greek, French, Italian, Irish and Cuban just a hop skip and a jump from my home and/or my work. Which brings me to another thing I love about Atlanta…
2. The Diversity
Normally, this word makes me cringe as companies and government bureaucracies use this politically correct term to spend countless dollars on training and promoting something that is inherently obvious. However, in the context of a city I think diversity is amazing. Clarkston, a neighborhood in Atlanta primarily populated with refugees from around the world, is the most diverse square mile in all of America. In the city as a whole, blacks make up 52% of the population, whites 38%, Hispanics 10%, foreign nationals 8% and Asians 5%. Gwinnett County, part of metro Atlanta, is one of the most diverse counties in the nation. I love being able to interact and connect with so many different people on a daily basis; life cannot be dull when you’re learning new traditions, new words, new food and new ideas, which is inevitable when you’re surrounded by so much difference. This connects with my next point.
3. My church
First, I’ll mention the Christian landscape in general. Atlanta is full of dynamic preachers and pastors and churches that make a difference. Atlanta churches, for the most part, do not sit on the sidelines. They are active in the community, doing service projects, inner-city ministry, reaching the homeless, rallying against sex trafficking, giving food to the hungry. I love seeing people passionate about social issues and doing something about them motivated by the love that Christ has for the disadvantaged.
In particular though, I love my church. It has the dynamic preaching, and members who are passionate about the city of Atlanta. But it is also diverse. Martin Luther King Jr. was attributed as saying, “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of Christian America.” In so much of the country, and even in the city of Atlanta this is still true. Not my church. In the early church, Jew and Gentile, women and men, slave and master all worshiped together and broke bread with one another. My church reflects this model where young and old, black and white, rich and poor, single and married can all celebrate and worship together. We are made for relationship and relationships are made richer through difference. Which leads me to the last and most important thing about Atlanta that I will miss terribly:
4. The people
Everyone has heard of Southern hospitality. It’s not just a stereotype from the good ole days. It is alive and well in 2013. Southerners are some of the friendliest, most generous, gracious people I have ever met. It is so easy to make friends here, like shooting fish in a barrel, so to speak J. I say Southerner, and not Atlantan because it’s hard to find a true Atlantan. Most people are transplants from somewhere else across the South or even outside the South but they’ve adapted to a Southern mentality. It will break my heart to leave, not because of the food, or the amenities, the entertainment of the city or the weather, but because of the relationships I’ve formed here. In just three short years, I’ve made lifelong friendships and I will miss our face-to-face interactions greatly.
People who don’t know any better badmouth Atlanta. The traffic is bad. It’s too hot. There’s too much crime. There are too many homeless. The schools are bad. MARTA should go more places. Why are we building a new dome?!?
The reality is that all cities have their faults, their failures and weaknesses. Atlanta isn’t perfect; it’s filled with imperfect people. But it is exactly those people that make it worthwhile. I love this city!