When we were considering where to move earlier this year and we would mention the name of our new town, we would often get the same response: “People there are so nice.”
“Really?” we would ask ourselves. How could it be possible that people living in a slightly smaller town, just 12 miles away could really be THAT much nicer than anywhere else? I was skeptical. I didn’t see how a community could be comprised of only nice people.
Once we decided to move, I spent lots of time on the phone setting up utilities and taking care of the logistics of moving. Without fail, I would get off the phone with someone in our new community dumbfounded by their niceness. “You won’t believe this,” I told my husband. “I called to ask about the garbage service, and the lady went on and on explaining the different types of garbage cans and where to place them on the curb. She was SO NICE!”
After we moved in, the niceness continued. The neighbors were nice. The park district people were nice. The teachers at the junior high were nice. I went to Meijer and cracked up when a guy went out of his way to help a pregnant woman out the door with her groceries. Even when I let my library fines pile up to such an embarrassing level that I was “blocked” from the library, the librarian kindly helped me restore my account.
After five months of living here, the niceness has continued. I know it’s not possibly for everyone to be nice so I’m waiting for someone to let down their guard. Do something mean. I sometimes like to play little games with those in my new community to test their niceness. This involves striking up conversations with strangers, asking random questions of public officials and asking for help finding things in stores.
A few weeks ago, I had the perfect opportunity to test the niceness of the park district. As you know by now, our house backs up to a prairie wetland. Since we moved in, we have heard that once a year, the park district does a controlled burn of the prairie. We have been anxiously awaiting this spectacle. So I can’t even tell you how happy I was to receive a postcard in the mail, alerting residents near the prairie that the controlled burn would be happening soon.
I would look out my windows each morning, hoping to spy a blazing fire behind my house. Being slightly obsessed with fire, I was afraid to be away from home for too long because I might miss it. After a week of looking out the window, I decided I needed more info. I found the postcard and noticed that the person in charge of the burns ended the postcard with these words. “Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.” Oh, yeah.
I sat down and wrote him an e-mail explaining my enthusiasm about the controlled burn, while trying not to sound too much like a pyromaniac. I asked if he could tell me when he planned to do the burn because I wanted to be sure to be home to watch. I hit send, fulling expecting that there was no way he would actually respond.
A few hours later, I got his reply. He apologized that they would not be able to do a burn of the particular prairie behind our house because it is full of peat soil. They have burned the area in the past and found that when the peat catches fire, it can burn for months or even a year. They realized their mistake in setting it on fire, and now they are working to restore the ecosystem to its original state, he explained.
In his detailed e-mail, he told me about some of the other prairie areas near our house and offered to call me to let me know when they would be doing a burn nearby. He even offered to meet me at the site to give a more detailed explanation. In a word, his response was: NICE.
Of course, I couldn’t just drop it there. I wrote back thanking him for his explanation and telling him of our family’s love for the prairie and interest in the ecosystem.
He wrote back again, this time offering to come to our house to meet us and answer our questions. (Seriously? Does that even happen?)
I sent a text to my husband telling him I was going to invite the guy to our house for Christmas dinner just to see what he would say! (Insert sarcasm)
Well, I didn’t go so far as to give the guy my phone number. So imagine my surprise this morning when my phone rang at 8 a.m.
“This is the park district calling. We have a note to call you to let you know when we are doing a controlled burn in your area.” The message included details of the time and locations of the burns that would take place today. I took a break around lunch and got to the site just as a bunch of guys in yellow fire suits were getting ready to start the first fire. My daughter and I sat in the minivan watching them do their work.
I took a few photos out the window. I was too shy to walk right up to them because I was afraid that they might have received a memo letting them know my name and my interest in the burn. I guess I’m just not used to this level of niceness just yet. I’m hoping that one day, I will be less of a skeptic. But I have to say, we are really enjoying life here in our new community. It’s… well,… NICE!