Our move to Dayton has been nothing short of a culture shock. Honestly, and I mean that, honestly, every single day I wake up and go to bed I look at what is in front of me. It’s nothing short of a dream. I get to live in my dream house. My home is is full of family and love. It is full of peace and rest. I get to have laughter. I get to have fun. I get space to deal with hard feelings. I get to live in a place of green pastures.
If that isn’t culture shock enough, some more things are culture shock for me. Follow me here: I grew up in a small, one-stop-light-town, that doesn’t really even need it still to this day. This small town and small town values are what I grew up with and then I moved to the big city of Indianapolis. When I moved there for college, Indianapolis was just a capital city, nothing really quite all that special. Of course there was a small town to big city feel for me and I had to adjust. Since then, Indianapolis has grown tremendously. It hosted its first Super Bowl and the downtown continued to boom afterward. I loved everything about being within a ten-minute drive to downtown. Our family’s favorite restaurants are still there. It’s kind of odd, though, because downtown Indianapolis during the week is actually a lot quieter than the surrounding suburbs or small town areas inside the metro area. It was busy, yes, but very quiet… not terribly people-y. I lived in that city for sixteen years almost as long as I lived in my childhood hometown. It was long enough to pick up the values of a larger city life.
Dayton is not small in landmass, but it sure has a lot of small, hometown values. Many mom-and-pop restaurants are not here, though. If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know Mexicans are hard to find and so is their food. Whereas in Indianapolis I feel like Mexican foods, grocery stores, restaurants were on every corner, almost as common as McDonald’s. Below are some specific ways this place is so different and so wholesome. It’s my own little Hallmark town.
1. They mean business with security here.
On our first weekend to attend church, we decided on a church recommended to us by a few people from our home church. It had a very familiar feel walking in. Their hospitality team is beyond amazing. We were welcomed with high fives, shakes, and fist bumps at the sidewalk and the kids were included in that—they still are, every single week.
The check in for the children’s ministry is very similar to what we were used to—go to a kiosk, type in some search info, and place stickers on the kids and parents receive a pick-up tag. No big deal. Until the dang kid rubs up against something or is wearing a piece of clothing that is not conducive for stickers attaching to it. If that sticker falls off we are NOT allowed to take our child who is beaming with smiles saying, “MOMMY!” or “DADDY!” at pick up. No. We have to go and have a child sticker reprinted in order to do so. Annoying? Yes. Do I get it? Yes.
The kids and I attend another church for bible study. In the past, if we ever attended elsewhere, we always just used hand written nametags and that was about it, maybe sign in on a notebook, right? Not here. Here, we have a check in card assigned to our family. Then I must check in at a kiosk and sign the child in on the sign in pages in each respective room. To pick up, my tag and their tag better match up or I’m going back to the kiosk to get things reprinted or chasing down the sweet ladies that volunteer to be there at night ensuring the security of our children. Annoying? Yes. Do I get it? Yes.
In the public schools, students must wear a photo ID attached to them at all times. I went into our local public school for some testing and saw that every single child had an ID attached. Before I could get into the school, though, I had to buzz in, speak my reason for being there, sign in, get a nametag, and sit in a designated area until the person I was meeting came to get me. It’s not just schools though; every business place is the same. Everyone is identified and must have a purpose to be in the building.
I realize, apart from the insane Ohio State fans, most people around here wear clothing that does not label affiliations. For example, I love to wear Butler University t-shirts, IU sweatshirts/hats, and Dustin’s old Air Force PT gear. These items label me. They show I am clearly from Indiana or at least went to school at Butler and somehow am connected with Indiana University and then the Air Force is a part of my life. These designate targets. I don’t want to be a gosh dang target nor do I want my kids to be. So we are becoming more and more careful of what we wear in certain public situations.
Security is important here because of Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I didn’t realize it, but it is one of the main hubs of research and development for our country’s Air Force and warfighters. Many people here are affiliated with WPAFB in some form or fashion whether civilian, enlisted, prior service, retired, or currently working for the Air Force. Thus, it goes without saying, around here, everyone knows the importance of the work done there and yet we really don’t talk about it.
2. The night of Halloween, the Next Door app was full of homeowners complimenting the children in the neighborhood.
Okay so you know the families who have young children and want to walk them through the neighborhoods, yet want to leave out candy? You know how usually the first asshole child that comes takes all the candy and leaves? Not here. Every single child chose to take one piece of candy unless told to take more. Homes after dark who sat out whole bowls of candy with full-sized bars—there was PLENTY left by the time we got to them. It wasn’t for lack of children coming through the neighborhood- There were a lot of children.
There were teenagers, too. These teenagers, yes they went to get some candy, but they also walked the sides of the roads with flashlights making sure little kids didn’t get lost from their families. What?!
Every single child I walked past even younger than Del said, “Thank you!” On the app people were also praising how many of the kids shook hands with the owners, showing appreciation, honor, and respect. What?!
Where do I live that homeowners are so genuinely nice, so generous that they’d hand out full-sized candy bars and handfuls of candy, and then take the time to post on the app about how much THEY appreciated the kindness and respectfulness of all the children?
3. These people are serious about the holidays.
On the same note of the Halloween experience, this place is serious about the holidays. People went all out for the Halloween decorations. Porch pumpkins were out as soon Pumpkin Spice Latte was released at Starbucks. The green, purple, and orange lights were strung. There were scarecrows, gourds, wreaths, and ornately adorned front porches. And that’s when my eyes were opened—Oh crap, the Christmas decorations will probably be insanity. And yes, I am seeing that is the case. These people love to celebrate and love to continue to bring warmth to the neighborhood and community as a whole.
It’s not just my neighborhood that is big on decorating; it is this city’s culture as a whole. Every business, every park, and all public town places are decorated for the season. It truly does feel like a Hallmark Christmas movie each day we get out and drive around town.
4. A festival for
I left that blank on purpose. There are festivals for anything and everything. I think there’s a Sauerkraut festival. I guess it is a big deal and people come from all over the country to this festival of fermented cabbage. I do like me some Sauerkraut, but not enough to fly from Alaska to Dayton just to have some in a different part of the country. Sauerkraut is Sauerkraut.
Some more examples of festivals for everything include:
Sugar Maple Festival
Farm Babies Festival
Spring Fling Festival
Patriot Freedom Festival
Upper Valley Fiber Fest
Ohio Railroad Museum Railroad Heritage Festival
Banana Split Festival
Rockin’ Green Tomato Festival
Canal Music Fest
Second Saturday Street Festival
Think this list is long? This is just the beginning of a year-long thing. It’s a requirement for the little towns to all have a festival. So, every single weekend of the year there is a festival or something going on in the metro area. The community here creates community and provides a sense of community pride.
It’s kind of a great compromise of raising children in a large city of opportunity like Indianapolis and with small town values in the town I grew up in.
5. People are like me.
It’s weird to say, for me, and probably those that know me, it will be hard to believe this—but it is weird to be around people who are like me. In Indianapolis I grew accustomed to being the minority in what I think, believe, and politically affiliate. Moving here is a culture shock in that most people, regardless of race, religion, and any other affiliations, tend to have the same outlook on life as me.
The thoughts of the general population here tend to be forward thinking—That’s the culture of Dayton, though. Dayton is a hub of so much innovation. I did not know how many commonplace things we used all around the world today were created here, in Dayton, Ohio. For example, the cash register was created here. Let’s not forget this place is the birthplace for aviation. Two brothers had an idea that people should be able to move in the air and they made it happen. Dayton, Ohio sends in and is awarded almost as many patents as Silicon Valley every year. Things happen here and there’s even a movement of people wanting to rebuild Dayton to even greater and better things, uniting the whole city’s leaders together once a month to network and remember who they are and what they’re doing. It’s unheard of in any place I’ve ever been.
The forward thinking isn’t just engineering new technologies, but also it seems to be a hub of faith. Before I moved here a gal on Facebook stalked me and then invited me to a group called Dayton Women in the Word. I went to my first Teaching Collective meeting in July and it was like my dream come true—Women all over the Dayton metro area gathering in one place to learn God’s Word together and learn how to better teach one another. When I say the metro area, I mean some people drove an hour or more just to come. How crazy dedicated is that? The women of Dayton Women in the Word opened up a whole new world to me that what I desire is possible. It takes time in the Word, time with God, time with His people, and intentional living.
The intentionality of the people of this city is beyond empowering and exciting.