EDITOR'S NOTE: The Place Where You Live is a regular column from a variety of writers in Elkhart County. As the column's name suggests, they'll write about issues affecting their neighbors and communities.
Why move back to Elkhart from Savannah, Ga.?
This is a question I have heard many times since my family and I moved back to what we call home. My husband David and I first moved to Elkhart in 1996. I agreed to stay five years. We stayed eight. When we left Elkhart, I cried for weeks. But I was determined to make a go of it.
We heard so much about Southern hospitality, and such a thing certainly exists. But Southern hospitality seems based on the surface while Midwest hospitality runs deep to the core. In my experience, if you need help — as all of us do from time to time — Midwesterners will give you anything they can to help you. The first time I understood the difference is when I was pet sitting for my Savannah neighbor. When another neighbor said to me “You need to stop doing favors for people; they are taking advantage of you.” While the South saw this as taking advantage, the Midwest calls this being a friend.
During our time in Savannah, my work was very fulfilling. I was the director of sales for a successful hotel group and a wedding planner for former Cooking Network star Paula Deen and her family, among others. When we decided to leave Savannah we had many choices. My parents and in-laws both wanted us to move near them. Well, not really us, but their grandson Liam. But we chose Elkhart for the second time.
What I hope to help those puzzled by our decision understand is how special this place is. It is the genuine people who live here. People like Janice at the Old Style Deli who looked up as I entered her store for the first time in many years and without missing a beat said “Hi, Julie. Welcome home.” And my employer TaigMarks, along with our clients, who as I have struggled with some chronic health issues, have stood by me longer than any sane person would.
It is a place where my 10-year old says to us, “Wow, you know everyone in town,” and I say, “Yes, Liam, and remember they all know you and have my phone number.“ A place where a part-time ad exec and a teacher can live a secure middle-class life. A place where in the midst of the Great Recession you restored the Lerner Theatre.
I don’t regret our time in Savannah. Sometimes you need to understand what you had and lost before you can appreciate it. After a few years of wisdom under my belt and the perspective of parenthood, my priorities have changed. I needed a place where when you are weak, instead of tossing you aside for a newer version, you are surrounded by people who will lift you up and help you gain strength again.
This is a way of life I want to teach Liam. This the Elkhart way.
Please know that David, Liam and I are truly grateful for each of you and your generous Midwestern hospitality.
Julie Bird is an account manager for TaigMarks Inc. Advertising & Public Relations and a big fan of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce's 500 Families initiative. Her husband David is a language arts teacher with the Elkhart Community Schools. Son Liam is 10.