I believe Appleton, Wisconsin must be the nicest city in the world.
I say this with some bias, as I live smack in the middle of it, and with some empirical evidence.
For instance, a sign in the front yard of a house not too far from mine invites anyone passing by to help themselves to some pears. The pear pickers who presumably live in that house thoughtfully included paper bags for people who might want to help themselves to more pears than they can carry.
And, the sign says, if you want all of the pears, you can take the wheelbarrow too. Just be careful because it’s broken.
If that isn’t the epitome of Midwestern nice – the generous offer combined with the grandmotherly concern that the recipient should be careful – I don’t know what is.
A community garden hosted by the middle school across the street from my house not only grows fresh vegetables and flowers, it also offers them to anyone who wants to stroll over and pick themselves a treat.
Little Libraries have popped up all over town, many with companion Little Pantries containing non-perishable food items. Take what you need, share what you can seems to be the theme of the season.
And, this generosity extends beyond food and books. Another person who lives a short walk from me offers free poetry from a small structure in her front yard. In the years since I have noticed and participated in this literary largesse, I have seen the display grow. It now includes a pretty space to enjoy and create poems “and such”.
People here say hello as reflexively as they breath and really enjoy acknowledging and encouraging others to have a nice day as they pass by on their walks or toddler-toting bike rigs.
A companion of mine once crashed on his bike and, before I could turn my own bike around to see if I could help, our neighbor rushed out with a cold bottle of water and some bandaids.
I’m not saying we’re immune to the challenges that plague other communities, or exempt from the need to educate ourselves about our place in the world all around.
I’m just saying Appleton is a pretty great place to live.