It was a cool evening in Anaheim, California, as I periodically checked my iPhone for updates on the Grayson High School state championship game. It was December 2011. My family and I were enjoying the amusement park, California Adventures. While we were enjoying it, my heart was still back in Georgia checking in on the Rams. I didn’t know any of the boys personally, but my son wore the green and gold earlier that autumn in his first football season. He, in my mind, was part of the greater football program that was playing in that undefeated season. It was the closest to a small-town community that I’ve ever been a part of and I loved it.
From the first Grayson Day parade that my wife and I attended, the quaint hamlet of Grayson, Georgia has held a distinct place in our hearts. When the fire trucks blasted their horns and the marching band rumbled with its cadenced drums, we were left speechless and teary. We both remarked at how silly we felt with tear-filled eyes at the impact of a simple parade but, as many of you know, Grayson is more than that. It’s our town. It’s where we have chosen to raise our children and, for some of us, to retire.
The sun slowly rises on the eastern border just over the high school, just over Oak Grove Road, and falls serenely to the west just over Sosebee Farm Road, just past Couch Middle and Starling Elementary. But while the sun is up on our patch of Gwinnett, we live our lives. We work and we take our kids to school and we attend our houses of worship. What once was a quiet whistle stop for the railroad that ran from Lawrenceville to Loganville, Grayson has become the best kept secret that is now no longer a secret.
Now, while Mickey and his boys from 2011 had a lot to do with putting Grayson on the national map, the ongoing growth of the south – particularly in the metro Atlanta area – has continued to put our bedroom community in spotlight of expansion. Now it seems everyone else is hearing of what you and I have known for some time: Grayson is special.
We are more than just another of the countless municipalities (did I spell that correctly?) surrounding a massive urban complex. One can’t help but feel the particular identity when strolling through the schools, shops, or churches here. We help each other. We take meals to families in need, we pick up kids from school for each other when we’re running late, and we patiently let others out at the traffic light.
No matter how our town might grow we can still hold on to our small-town principles. Unless we move to Effingham, Jeff Davis county, or somewhere like that, we are going to see the piedmont swell in population. I’m not old (unless you ask my children, and then I’m very old) but in my life I’ve seen the explosion that is Atlanta, particularly Gwinnett. I remember when Pleasant Hill Road at I-85 was a quiet truck stop in the middle of nowhere. Now it seems that same growth is on the horizon of our city limits signs.
What am I trying to say? I don’t know particularly, only I love our town as I know many of you love our town. This secretive part of Gwinnett has been exposed as a potential for urban development. The county sees it as an added boost of taxpayers and taxable businesses, and many of us see it as more traffic and urban sprawl. Perhaps a hidden boon will be an increase in property values if the growth goes well. Regardless, it’s not the homes or stores that make the community but us. We can still strive to be the Grayson that we fell in love with.
Even without the present growth Grayson has become a community greater than it’s city limits. It’s a community from Snellville to Lawrenceville and from the county border to the Archer district. And you know what? It’s yours…and it’s mine.
Take meals to those in need, and offer to cut the grass for someone whose lawn is too tall, and let someone out at the red light…for they might be late for work. Wave to your neighbor and don’t gossip. These are the little things upon which empires are built. Well, not really, but they are what keep a community warm and inviting.
“Grayson, Gwinnett’s best kept secret.”
No more. Secret’s out.
Let’s show them why this place is special.