A couple of years ago in this space, I discussed how impressive it was to me when Quincyans would stop their cars out of respect when a funeral procession passes them. It was one of the first things I noticed when moving to Quincy almost 13 years ago.
Never in my life had I experienced such a gesture while living back East. I quickly learned from my wife, who grew up in Quincy, "That's the way we do things here."
After that particular column appeared, I received numerous responses, most from former "outsiders" like myself, who had noticed the same thing after moving to Quincy. They, too, were impressed.
I have always said Quincy has such a great thing going that it's a shame more people who grew up here don't realize it. In so many (good) ways, Quincy, because of its relative isolation, has been sheltered from the outside world.
I often feel like I'm living in Mayberry. For those of you old enough to appreciate that Andy Griffith reference, you know what I mean. People say hi to one another on the street, and it's not uncommon for neighbors to check on one another if they might suspect an illness or some sort of assistance is needed. It's refreshing to see and hear common courtesies that have long been forgotten in many places.
I'm not alone in my affection for Quincy, judging by the following letter to the editor that found its way to my desk a few days ago. This appeared in a newspaper in Maryland, penned by someone who visited our town not too long ago. The headline kind of says it all:
Decency discovered in an Illinois town
I recently went to Quincy, Ill., to attend a funeral of the father of a close friend of 20 years. When was the last time you witnessed any of the following examples of old-school values:
When was the last time you saw a clerk behind the counter take a package to a senior citizen's vehicle for her?
When was the last time you drove down a busy main road and no one exceeded the posted speed limit by more than 5 miles an hour?
When was the last time you used turn signals when needed?
I saw drivers who were not texting, watching ESPN on their smartphone or putting on makeup while driving. I saw drivers stopped completely at stop signs. I saw them wave at approaching drivers and walkers in neighborhoods.
But most amazing and impressive of all, every approaching vehicle stopped for the funeral procession. It didn't matter what lane, whether they were turning, God forbid in a rush, or at a green signal. In fact, every truck put its emergency blinkers on -- every one!
I left knowing I had not experienced any of this since the late 1960s as a preteen growing up in Silver Spring, Md. I believe I may have found where I want to live when I retire.
I once read that "character" is defined as what you do when no one is around or watching. You do it simply because it's the right thing to do.
Since I have lived in Quincy, I have always believed a lot of that character is in this town -- and sometimes actually someone is watching.
And they notice.