North Georgia is my home. Although I was born and raised in New York City, this is where I will be buried.

This is the place that has nourished my spirit and allowed me to grow into a person with whom I am now comfortable. As a result, I wish to express my gratitude.

Not long ago, a friend returned from getting his son settled in Manhattan so that he could attend Columbia University’s law school. My friend explained that a one room apartment was renting for $1,800 a month. The renters also wanted a fiscal guarantee that could only be met by someone earning over a half million dollars a year.

This brought back memories of dingy apartments inhabited by way more cockroaches than people. What came to mind was my first Manhattan abode that had bars on the windows and a police lock on the front door. When I moved in, I felt as if I were in jail.

I also remember being jostled in the subway cars. It was usually impossible to read because the throng of human beings intruded into every square inch of space. A book in hand might therefore be knocked aside at any unpredictable moment.

Despite these discomforts, I believed that New York was the center of the universe. Bright people from all over the country flocked there because of its intellectual ferment and economic opportunities. Back in the hinterlands, the territory was thus depleted of talent and enthusiasm.

At the time, I did not realize how absurd this was. Nor did I understand the depth of New Yorker arrogance. This hit me when I moved to upstate New York. Every now and then, the place where I worked would bring in experts to update us on the latest advances in our field.

What struck me was that when these erstwhile authorities came from the Big Apple, they often had a chip on their shoulders. They seemed to be saying that we folks from the big city are much more sophisticated than you outlanders. They thus looked askance at me even though I had recently been one of them.

Here in north Georgia, this is not the problem. Indeed, the reverse is often true. People are likely to be more modest than they need to be. As it happens, not all realize that they are every bit as good as those who pretend to be their betters.

What accompanies this modesty is a niceness that is not always found in urban agglomerates. Most of the Georgians I know not only have good manners, but they are decent human beings. They care about the wellbeing of others. They want for others the happiness and good fortune they want for themselves.

A lot of non-southerners believe — as I once did — that the South is a hotbed of racism. This may once have been true, but it is no longer. The relationship between blacks and whites is far closer and warmer than it is up north. Moreover, Atlanta has become a place of opportunity for everyone.

Not only this, but north Georgia has become cosmopolitan. Where once it might have been a backwater, today it is a melting pot for people from around the globe. The graciousness of the old-line Southerners has melded with the ambitions of the newcomers to produce a very healthy hybrid.

On top of this, I just love the beauty of north Georgia. The trees and flowers are everywhere. I also appreciate the hills and mountains, as well as the reservoir that is within walking distance from my home. These all bring tranquility to my heart.

Nor lest I forget, I love the birds. For a while my wife and I thought of naming our place goldfinch glen because so many of these creatures came to our bird feeder. To this day, we can look out our window to see these birds peeling the seeds from our zinnias.

For me, what this adds up to are feelings of peace and belonging. But most of all, north Georgia is the place where I found love and acceptance. It is here that I married my wife and had a rewarding career as a college professor and author. No location can offer much more than that!

Had I never taken the chance of moving from up north, little of this would have been available to me. I got lucky. Sometimes, it is impossible to gauge where the road of life will lead. My path led to a place I would never have imagined, but one that is dear to my heart.

Melvyn Fein is professor emeritus of sociology at Kennesaw State University. He lives in Canton.

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