Imagine that someone you don’t know very well has invited you to a dinner party.
You walk up to the door, gift in hand, unsure of what to expect. You ring the doorbell and stand back.
The door opens. The couple who invited you:
- Have sent their small child to open the door for you
- Posted a piece of paper on the door asking you to come in – they’re in the back yard
- Are both present and as they open the door one of them throws their arms around you. They both warmly and enthusiastically tell you how happy they are that you have decided to join them
Now consider that every city has a way of greeting you, of welcoming you into its presence. No matter how often you have visited before; now you arrive branded as visitor, guest, outsider. As you enter and walk upon its streets, interacting with its citizens, you begin to sense it. The most accurate way to gauge it is on foot and alone, engaging with it in its most vulnerable state. Some may argue that what you sense is culture and others may use the word aura, but it is more than that – it is character. Why is it that character stands out from all other elements of the city’s facade? It rises above the city’s natural elements, its amenities, unique tourist attractions or historical contributions. Each city’s character distinguishes itself as unique and different because of the level of warmth, the welcome projected by its people.
The woman had traveled all over the world and as she meets each new city, she evaluates the sincerity and warmth of its welcome on her Welcome Meter.
Today is her second visit to this city. She wonders if the first time was a fluke or if the Welcome Meter miscalculated its character. As she steps out of the cab, the June air is unseasonably hot and horribly humid. She notices the differences immediately. People consistently look her in the eye and smile freely at her. They express concern and go out of their way to take time with her, and to do more than she asks. How strange, she muses, as if they actually cared about her.
This is Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, its roots intertwined with democracy itself. Every interaction demonstrates the expression of kindness she values so highly and so the city retains its nearly perfect 10.
After all, isn’t the manner in which we treat strangers, who hold no power over us and mean nothing to us, reflective of our true character?