Laughing Right Out Loud

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Out With The Old...

I have lived 37 of my 38 years within 5 miles. By that, I mean that throughout the various moves I have endured, I have never lived more than 5 miles away from the last address. My wife and I both grew up in the small city of Hueytown, Alabama. Hueytown is about 12 miles southwest of Birmingham and sprang up in the 1950's as a bedroom community supporting the U.S. Steel plant in neighboring Fairfield. I and my wife went to Hueytown schools our entire lives and graduated in 1988 and 1990, respectively. When we got married in 1992, we moved into an apartment for about 5 years. During this time, I put myself through college and we had our first child. In 1998, we realized our apartment was getting too small, so we began our search for our first home.

We looked at several houses, but ultimately decided to build our own. The process went smoothly and we ended up with a house we loved at the end of a dead end street in a very quiet and safe neighborhood. Over the years, the road was extended, more houses popped up, and the neighbors did not necessarily seem to appreciate the little things, such as friendliness among your neighbors, speed limits, the beauty of landscaping, etc. It was not uncommon for me to have to run into the street to caution my kids that a hooptie was flying around the curve and that they needed to get out of the way quickly. It was not uncommon to walk out every morning and find trash in my yard that other people decided they did not want in their cars, but assumed other people wanted on their property. It was not uncommon to see people parked all the way up in their yards instead of in their driveway just to save a few steps. It was not uncommon for neighbors to send their kids over to play in my yard, despite the fact that I was not up for babysitting.

I refused to admit it for a long time, but it was clear that my neighborhood was going downhill. I began looking at the city as a whole asking what I could do to make it better. I volunteered with several organizations, was the president of the youth baseball program, vice-chairman of the zoning variance board, etc. I was trying to find some way to give back to a community that I felt a strong devotion to and fought against a solid wall of apathy that seemed to permeate the city.

I don't feel that these problems were exclusive to Hueytown. It seems that much of the metropolitan Birmingham area has gone through the same thing. I read a study last week that Birmingham is 7th in the nation in violent crimes (murder, assault, rape, etc). As a matter of fact, on one of my last visits to Birmingham, I actually witnessed someone get killed on the west side of town. Right before my eyes, someone's life was ended by someone else's lack of respect for anyone but himself.

When we finally sold our house, I wasn't sure what to feel. My first reaction was fear. Fear of leaving everything I was familiar with. Fear of stepping outside my comfort zone. Fear of leaving behind many great friendships. Since that time, I have thought alot more about what I feel now. I value and greatly cherish every incredible memory. From my school days to watching my children's first erratic bicycle rides to the difference I made in the lives of many people through my dedication to volunteering and serving my community.

Hueytown will always hold a special place in my heart, but I am greatly looking forward to wonderful memories that my family will make in a safe, close-knit community filled with pride.