Because of my own significant health issues, I have taken the current crisis seriously. I avoid large crowds, do not go out much and keep my distance around people. If I do go out, I wear a mask. So there I was, masked, at the Walmart pharmacy in Soddy- Daisy, and when I went to the window to pick up a prescription the (masked) pharmacist said – “Oh my God, you’re the miracle man!” Now, I do not know her personally, and I cannot imagine being recognized with a mask on, but she knew who I was and the horrible illness I had miraculously survived last summer. She proceeded to ask me if I had plenty of hand sanitizer and implored me to be sure to wipe everything down. Why would a complete stranger care so much?
Because in this small town, people have big hearts.
The first time I set foot in Soddy Daisy was Thanksgiving, 1984. I had the good fortune of meeting the lovely Diana (Lusk, SDHS 1973) while she was stationed in Washington, DC and I lived in Northern Virginia, and after a whirlwind romance we were married September 1st. I “came home” with her to see the place of her birth and upbringing, to meet the rest of the family, and enjoy a good ol’ fashioned Thanksgiving. That is when I met Ralph Gibbs for the very first time – and he greeted me with a hug and a kiss! I come from a much more reserved background, and a handshake would have been just fine, thank you. But no, that’s not how you show family love in these parts, and I still remember that big, sloppy – and enthusiastic – kiss. What exactly had I gotten myself into?
A small town, and a family with big hearts.
After moving here in 1995 we tried to be a part, with church, school, and family activities. For you “newcomers” here, there was not always a city hall with that great playground, Scramble Alley, behind it. We were among the many dozens – hundreds? – of locals that added our labor to build that park. I remember standing in the cold with my wife, screw gun in hand, as we screwed on picket after picket on the fencing. The old Daisy Elementary was headquarters, with food for the workers and childcare for the kids, as the community pitched in to make a park out of a kid’s wildest dreams. I don’t know the mechanics of how it was paid for, a grant I believe, but I do know how it was built. The fine citizens of this burg gave up nights and weekends with their volunteer efforts, and wonderful park was born. What brought all these folks together for this cause?
It was just a small town, with a big heart of community.
I always vote, and even ran for commissioner one time. I did not win, but the experience took me around town where I met lots of people. I had many conversations with complete strangers, all of whom were kind and decent. I was advised, however, that even though I was a nice guy and they liked me, they had other plans. Which, in retrospect, was wise. I had only been here a couple years and could not claim the history and understanding of a local. But I have attended many commission meetings, have always voted since, and have always been amazed at the poll volunteers. Many times, I approached the table and, even though I knew the worker (typically Doris Gibbs or Brenda Laney or Raycelle Johnson) I always had to prove who I was! Photo ID required – why is that so hard of an idea to grasp? I proudly complied because a protected election process is critical to our democracy. And this last election two of the workers complimented me on my blog posts, with Raycelle calling out “When are you going to write that book?”
Because this small town has a big heart for decency, fairness, and the electoral process.
All of that brings me to two very recent displays of the heart of people – individuals – in this small town of friendly souls.
The first involved a young woman recounting, on Facebook, her recent experiences with helping the homeless. She had taken lunch bags to downtown Chattanooga, where she handed out over 150 to appreciative people. She did not post to get anything, or to pat herself on the back. She posted because she cared. I felt compelled to be a part so ordered up toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, combs, and water bottles. When she came to get them, she told me her story – the why behind her actions. She saw a homeless person and felt the desire – indeed, had a dream – to be a part of the solution. She is giving her time and efforts to help the bottom wrung on society’s ladder. And her heart touched my heart, because in a small town we are all connected.
The second involved watermelons. A lady posted on Facebook that her son would be at Poe’s Tavern selling his melon crop. He had worked hard raising up two varieties of the delicious summer treat, and the picture showed his proud face with his pickup truck bed loaded with ripe melons. His product looked good and his pricing was fair. Or so most of us thought. But one commenter felt his pricing was too high. She said he did not understand economics, his parents had taught him poorly, that a $1 bag of seeds should not result in a $4 watermelon. She believed that if Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer, could sell them for less, then that is where you should shop. And, of course, Walmart would take her EBT card and follow COVID protocols while this young man sat – outside – with no mask and only took cash. Her conclusion?
“Soddy Daisy is a small town with small minds.”
Well, the big hearts of this small town rallied to his defense. She was soundly rebutted. And suddenly there was a huge demand for Preston’s Delicious Local Watermelons. Before many even had a chance the next day, he was sold out. In three hours! His mom posted a picture of his smiling face, sitting in the bed of his now-empty pickup truck. Because you don’t attack someone here without just cause, you don’t malign the efforts of a young man. And you never underestimate the power of community.
This is, after all, a small town with a big heart.
I am sure wherever you live is okay, too. Bless your heart. But I will stake my claim here, in this little piece of Heaven on Earth. Where the people care – and show it. Where affection is demonstrated – vigorously. Where things get done – with community. Where needs are met – with loving care. Where the efforts of an enterprising young man are rewarded – handsomely.
Soddy-Daisy – the small town, with a big heart.