Know Your Community

Planning to Move? Here are some easy ways to know a community from afar before it becomes your community.

| August/September 1991

You've found your perfect piece of country, you've got the financing lined up, and you're eager to close the deal. Then a nagging doubt sets in: Is this really the community you want to live in?

Your concern is well founded. After all, this may be the place where you spend the rest of your life, where you raise your kids, and make a living. Every community has its good and bad points. Your goal is to make sure the good ones outweigh the bad.

Here's my five-point plan to help you know your community before it is your community:

 1. Find the courthouse cafe or diner where the town's movers and shakers gather each morning before work to solve the world's—and the town's—problems. Get a copy of the local paper, turn to the real estate classifieds, and order a cup of coffee. Listen to the conversations around you; try to tap into the circuit of what's on the minds and in the hearts of people in the community.

This may seem like eavesdropping. It is. From careful listening, you'll be able to tell if the local folks are interested in vicious gossip or real community issues. After a couple of mornings, you might engage your fellow klatchers in some easy conversation. Be careful, though: To them, you're just another newcomer. They've seen `em come, they've seen `em go. Don't try to impress them with who you are or the plans you have for making sweeping changes in the town government. Don't give them any reason to form a negative impression of you by spouting your own philosophies right off the bat.

 2. Find out how helpful your rural neighbors may be by going to, say, a hardware store, wandering around, and asking your fellow shoppers a couple of really dumb questions that will establish your country naiveté. How helpful they are, how cooperative and supportive they are, will give you a pretty good indication of how neighborly you can expect them to be.

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