Clarkston is a “small town with a big heart,” according to the sign that stands at the roadside on the way in.
Small town…sort of…
Small in the sense that it has fewer than 10,000 residents and takes up only a square mile or so of geographic space. Small in the sense that neighbors are city council members and that streets are named things like “Church” and “Market” and “College.” A railroad runs through it, and stately old brick churches line its southern street.
Not so small in the sense that it is smack dab in the middle of a city that millions of people call home – Atlanta. Due east of city center, Clarkston is hardly even a suburb anymore, now that Atlanta stretches almost to Chattanooga and South Carolina and Macon on all sides. Clarkston sits tucked on the edge of what used to the the outer boundary for folks calling themselves “Atlantan” – Interstate 285. In the last 25 years, that interstate has come to represent city center rather than city limits. Clarkston may be small, but its world is anything but.
Big heart…and growing…
This small town/big city spot in Atlanta is terribly unique. Many call it “the most diverse square mile in America.” In addition to being a sweet Southern town that was overtaken by urban growth a few decades ago, Clarkston is also home to several thousand refugees who have come to the United States legally, through an application process with the United Nations, and then on to America, via one of several resettlement agencies. The heartbeat of Clarkston has, out of necessity and compassion, shifted toward that refugee population, given that it is roughly half of the city’s total population. The big church on Church Street changed its name to the “Clarkston International Bible Church.” The Community Center offers many multi-cultural events. The town grocery store carries foods I’ve never seen before. The shopping center in town boasts restaurants with food from far-away places like Nepal and Eritrea. The heart of the town is always big…sometimes stressed, sometimes beautifully beating, but always maxed to capacity by the diversity and need and hope and tradition within its borders.
Our family is moving to Clarkston. Hopefully soon. We want to connect our world with that world, and to become a part of the heartbeat that is there.