Almost seven years ago, I moved from one suburb of Atlanta to another, and my life has changed for the better. We only moved five or six miles, not even far enough to cross county lines, but that one simple move from Lawrenceville to Lilburn made all the difference in my quality of life.
My New, Magical Neighborhood
Even the local pizza joint offers halal beef and chicken for toppings. Lilburn is a little town with not quite 13,000 people living there. Despite this, it has a staggering level of diversity. On my street alone, we have a Muslim family (whose kids play with mine), an Ethiopian family (whose kids play with mine), and a family with some sort of West Indian extraction (their kids are grown, but they like to dote on mine). Until the family across the street moved in a year ago, my children literally had no white friends and didn’t think that was in any way unusual.
Further afield, we have the hijabi clothing store, the various supermercados, the Asian farmers market, and the vegetarian Indian restaurant. Hell, even the local pizza joint offers halal beef and chicken for toppings.
And it’s not just ethnic diversity, either. We have an astonishing diversity of thought, too. We have two different flavors of Hindu temple, one of which is right down the street from the Buddhist temple, which is catty-corner to the mosque - which is right next door to the Southern Baptist church. We have every brand of Christianity that you can think of, and there’s a Spanish language synagogue around, too. Oh, and don’t forget the Kingdom Temple for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We even have the county’s only craft distillery in the city center. They make vodka and absinthe. Absinthe! According to the owners, the City of Lilburn was very excited to have them set up shop and were very helpful with the local licensing. Gwinnett County and the State of Georgia was much less so.
Even Lilburn PD is very easy going; I’ve only ever had pleasant interactions with them. Gwinnett County PD, on the other hand, threatened to arrest me in front of my kids because the address on my driver’s license was wrong.
Our Community Prospers...Without the Law’s Imposition
In spite of our many differences, everyone is very laid back and accepting of each other. There’s hardly any crime. No vandalism or graffiti, and no real community tensions to speak of. We all get together in the park and celebrate our international night or head down to the local Lutheran Church for the yearly Oktoberfest (complete with German dishes, beer, and a polka band), and we’re all just cool. In general and on the whole, we all get along.
Those who are different from us stop being other people and just become, well, people. Maybe it’s because we’re such a small town that a lot of us know each other so well. We’re friends, and as Jeffrey Tucker pointed out last year, and Sean Malone so beautifully showed us earlier this month, friendship has a marvelous and astonishing way of humanizing the “Other.” Those who are different from us stop being other people and just become, well, people.
And my favorite thing about Lilburn? It’s wonderful not by any design or engineering. Our peace and acceptance is not a top-down edict. Nobody said, “You must get along or else!” Lilburn’s best qualities came about spontaneously, organically, and through mutually beneficial agreement. We want a peaceful town, so we don’t fight each other. We want a prosperous town, so we allow businesses of all sorts. We want to be accepted by our neighbors, so we accept our neighbors in return. Not because of law, but because of choice. And that is a beautiful thing.