I had a friend from Perth with me for a couple of days in Geraldton this week.
While he was in town he made some comments about Geraldton that stood out to me; things that one might take for granted after living in Geraldton for a long time.
As we walked along the streets in town, perfect strangers smiled and nodded. My Perth friend was amazed.
Of course they do, I thought to myself. But watching his constant amazement made me realise this isn't normal. It isn't like this everywhere else.
We had a large vehicle, and more than once friendly drivers let us into traffic. I accepted this as normal, everyday friendliness. But my friend explained to me that would rarely happen in Perth. I suggested to him that everywhere was only 7 minutes away, so drivers generally aren't in a rush. He told me it made him feel guilty and want to be a more courteous driver too.
At one point my friend spotted a person on the street and began to critique their choice of clothing. I then piped up; "Hey, I know her. That's so and so." I gave a wave and smile.
After a couple of days of constantly saying hi to people who I knew by name in the street, my friend began to realise that's just what happens in Geraldton.
Oh, I forgot to mention the glorious winter weather, brilliant coffee, and fast NBN.
The sense of community is strong, although it's hard measure the way one can measure the crime rate.
Once every city in the world was just a large village, where people knew each other and spoke with each other as they made their way around.
But in the age of motor cars, freeways, computers and suburbs, one can live in a city of 2 million people and feel completely alone.
Counter-intuitively, it's easier to have a large number of friends you see regularly in a smaller city like Geraldton, than it is in a large place like Perth or Melbourne.
As the Geraldton community currently grapples with its share of issues, like increased burglary rates, unemployment, and the cost of living, it's worth keeping in mind the things we posses that can't be measured on a graph.
Geraldton is special. It's worth protecting.