Fargoans aren't like other folks.
You start to sense a change in the people while waiting to board your flight from Minneapolis to Fargo. After seeing thousands of travelers as I passed through the Charlotte and Chicago airports, these people in the seating area begin to transform. They're a little softer. They smile a little more. They appear relaxed and comfortable in the company of the strangers around them.
Maybe that's it. There doesn't seem to be any strangers. People are less apt to be glued to their cellphone screens, pie-eyed within their perimeter of personal space.
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Every flight I've been on from MSP to FAR feels like I'm crashing a party on a private jet. People are smiling and reaching over seatbacks to shake hands, asking the fellow in 14B about his mother because she's an old classmate of the woman in 13A. It feels safe. It feels warm. It feels like home.
I arrived in Fargo for a three-week vacation with my husband and two sons a few weeks ago and walked around town as though in a museum, my mouth agape. I couldn't stop staring. I became that freaky lurker. It's just that these Fargo people amazed me.
My parents drove us to the Moorhead Dairy Queen one evening to join the throngs of people lined up for cones and Blizzards. It was pretty busy so the wait was understandably long. I glanced around, expecting to see frowning faces. Nope. They appeared unfazed by the wait in the 95-degree heat. And when we got up to the window-I swear it-the gal there was downright giddy to take our order. She made me feel like we were being welcomed into her home instead of being asked for my order. There's no sense of "This is only a job." There's real joy in the workplace. It doesn't feel contrived or like it was bought with an hourly wage.
People in Fargo seem to think of others before themselves. They hold the door for the next person because they want to, not because it's expected of them. They do it for the little puff of joy that comes from helping someone out in even the smallest way.
In searching for a word to describe the atmosphere in Fargo, I kept coming back to optimistic. People look like they're in a good mood. They're approachable, open and warm. There's a sincerity here that is almost palpable. They don't ramble off "Have a good day" out of sheer habit. They actually mean it.
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My heart swells with pride to look around Fargo-Moorhead. I was raised here. This is my home, regardless of my South Carolina address since 2001. Families are still families here, not just related people living together under one roof. Strangers band together to help one another. Again, not because they're required to do so, but because, deep down, they love each other. Being in Fargo makes me want to be a better person. These people aren't nice. I think of "nice" as a person who wears a plastic smile and eyes filled with hate. No, Fargoans are genuinely friendly. It's not an act. These folks really mean it.
Schools are beautiful. Streets are clean. Even the garbage truck looks proud. That's probably why we can't find a house in Fargo. The secret is out. Forget the house on the beach or in the mountains. You're living in paradise right here. We've been wanting to move back to Fargo for years, but I won't give up. I won't stop trying to find a house, a job and a great neighborhood in which to raise my children.
It's a good place.
With good people.
I love my hometown.
Thank you, Fargo.
Fargo native Jones is a contributing writer to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Anderson, S.C.