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By Staff | Apr 2, 2010

With a 2800-mile trip to the East Coast completed, I can say it has made me appreciate our great country. We have a great country because it is full of great people.

I live where my closest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away and it is a 10-mile trip each way to the grocery store. To see where millions of people live almost on top of each other – the modern day cliff dwellers – depending on mass transit is daunting.

I have to admit I was apprehensive going to the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. However, my slightly defensive attitude of being another small fish swimming in an ocean of fish was not necessary

In all our days and all our miles, I cannot recall a moment where we were treated rudely or with any lack of courtesy.

It was during our meals where we had the best opportunity to talk and observe. Mealtime by its nature requires us to stop moving and take in our surroundings.

The meal that left me most puzzled was the one near D.C. at a Brazilian steakhouse where the total bill for our six family members was just over $400. To add to the surprise, we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. It was busy the entire time.

That was a stark contrast to a Mexican grill in Goshen, Ind., where my wife and I ate well for $15. The next day at Walkerton, Ind., we saw a covering with a roaster underneath it along the roadside.

We thought they were serving hot dogs but learned when we stopped that it was chili served by the Methodist church and they were giving it away.

It was the people serving the food that were most interesting. Our waiter in downtown Indianapolis was from Wellington, New Zealand and had been in this country for eight years. Our waiter in Williamsburg, Virginia was from Poland and told us, through his Polish accent, that he had been here long enough his dreams were in English. I am not sure of the staff origins at the Brazilian steakhouse, but I can say I did not see any Norwegians.

On our last hours of a tour of the Capitol, we were taking our pictures when a young couple handed me their camera and asked me to get their picture with the Capitol in the background. They were from Portugal. He was working in Baltimore and she was visiting.

While loading our belongings back into our vehicle one morning in Charleston, W.V., I saw a young man wearing Marine fatigues loading his vehicle. I walked over to him and said, “I want to shake the hand of a man who is a snappy dresser.”

We exchanged information briefly and I learned he was from nearby Huntington, W.V., He had been in Iraq and was possibly headed for Afghanistan. He told me all this while standing almost at parade rest and addressing me as, “sir.” His big smile melted my heart. As he drove away, his license plate frame said he was a volunteer fireman.

I could add more, but I have made my earlier point. Whether it was the man, whom I suspect was from Pakistan, who met us at the front door of our hotel, standing ready to give instructions and take our bags before we had even stepped out of our vehicle, or the patient people who worked the tourist sites answering the same 10 or 20 questions every day with a smile on their face all the time, we are a great country with great people.

Whether you think you won or you lost in the health care debate that has just been resolved, take a look people across the room or across the country; they are your neighbor. Say hello to them.

You can give them my greetings, too. God bless America.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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