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Seeing our hometown from one newcomer's perspective

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

It's wonderful when someone just opens up, volunteers from their heart and shares fresh insight on familiar subjects.

It happened for me last week in the most unexpected circumstance.

Driving along the east end of Ring Road on a misty, overcast Wednesday evening, I spotted a man in the middle of the road. While dressed for the soggy weather, he also navigated this walk in the center turn lane with a black, metal cane.

I navigated my car into the lane a few yards ahead of him. Turning on the emergency flashers and rolling down the passenger window, the offer of a ride was extended.

A quick aside: I do not advocate picking up hitchhikers or pedestrians unknown to you. I recognize that it's an unsafe practice. But it's something that I've been known to do. Having walked a few lonely roads in my day, I occasionally feel compelled to ignore any potential danger and provide assistance.

Now, the gentleman accepted the offer. It seems we both were headed for the same grocery.

His name is James. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and uses the cane because of a physical disability.

He set out for Kroger from his duplex home off Ring Road but did not intend to walk in middle of the road. The traffic had been just too heavy for him to safely get across to the sidewalk.

James expressed his appreciation for the lift by offering a general observation about this community.

"The people here are the nicest that I've ever met," he volunteered. "I've never encountered anyone that was rude."

He didn't tell me all this to impress. James knows me only as Ben, a guy with a red Chevy, which stopped on a drizzly evening.

James went on to explain that he recently moved here from the Washington, D.C., area. His wife works at Fort Knox, having followed her job which was relocated as part of the Army's Base Realignment and Closure process.

James didn't know what to expect in coming to Kentucky.

A few years ago, his family had moved out of central D.C. for the friendlier and safer confines of suburban West Virginia. But he found this area even more beautiful and inviting than the Mountain State.

James finished his shopping quickly and waited on a bench outside the store. I gave him a lift back home.

In that five-minute return trip, he again described his love for the scenery and the remarkable pleasantness of local residents.

Listening to him made me happy to be here and especially proud to be from here.

James is a newcomer. He sees things from fresh eyes.

He didn't see a bleak, hazy, rainy evening. He saw only rolling hillsides, the delights of spring and smiling, pleasant people.

I hope there are other Jameses out there. New residents brought here by BRAC or industrial employment or family connections or simply by circumstance who bring a fresh outlook and appreciation for this place that we call home.

After dropping James at his doorstep, I made a silent pledge to myself. I want to be sure that I'm never guilty of being the first rude or impolite person that someone meets here.

Please, let's all try not to burst James' bubble.

My new friend's idealic image of Hardin Countians is fragile and pure. It depends on us to keep it alive.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com or (270) 505-1764.