A little understanding goes a long way

Fred McCormick Columnist

As long as you have left your house in the last few weeks you already know that fall is here.

The orange, yellow and red leaves that cover the trees throughout the Swannanoa Valley have caught your eye at some point while you have been going about your daily business.

You know who else knows that the fall color is beautiful? Everybody.

And they come here to see the season in all of its spectacular glory.

For those of us that live here year-round the throngs of people that come to our community are impossible to miss.

What would be a five-minute trip to the grocery store can feel like a trip to the mall on Black Friday.

Traffic becomes a word that you hear mentioned in casual conversations with friends and neighbors and the sidewalks downtown are packed when the weather is nice.

While the merchants rely on the increased business that comes with the autumn action, residents can lose patience when caught behind a car moving at 20-miles-per-hour and enjoying the sights.

I know I have seen a few looks on the faces of locals as they are stuck behind a handful of cars waiting for the light to turn green at a busy intersection.

I like to think that most of us here in the Valley try hard to be as hospitable as possible.

But with the holidays right around the corner and life’s daily grind, it can be hard to feel like your town is hosting the entire country for a few weeks out of the year.

In all honesty, it really isn’t that hard to relate to our guests. I remember my first fall here.

The colors were unlike anything that I had seen in my life.

Coming from Florida — where many of our fall friends come from — I stared at the colors in awe.

I can’t even imagine what the locals must have thought when they would see me stopped in the middle of a sidewalk just staring at a mountainside.

Last weekend, I overheard a man downtown, who was passing through with a local tour say: “This town is so great, I wish I was staying the night.”

And I chuckled because I remember thinking that exact same thing when I first visited Black Mountain.

I think that is what makes the Swannanoa Valley such a welcoming place.

Every single one of us can relate with the sense of wonder that one feels when taking in the beauty of our surroundings. So for several weeks out of the year we smile and greet people from all over the country before the cold, quiet winter rolls in.

And perhaps more importantly than the economic boost that the fall brings with it, the season serves as an opportunity to show what sets our town apart the rest - the people.

So in the coming weeks, as you wait patiently in your car for a group of six to casually stroll across the crosswalk as they point to their newest observation, put yourself in their shoes.

And then just smile and wave.