Downtown area of Hillsdale, MI

You’ll Never Find Me in a Big City

Written by James Millius

Welcome to Jonesville: Home of the 2004 Division AAA Bowling Champions reads the sign that greets those entering Jonesville, the town that borders the northwest of Hillsdale along US-12. This is a far cry from the sky-scraping Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, about a hundred miles east of campus. Pair this with the miles of cornfields and dairy farms, and I knew I wasn’t in Portland anymore.

My first weekend in Hillsdale, I went out to lunch with my father at a local hot dog restaurant. When I saw the customers behind us pull up in a bona fide horse-drawn carriage, I was worried I had traveled back in time. That’s not what most people mean when they brag about horsepower, I thought. This would never happen in Portland.

I started thinking about that fact: that I never would have seen such a thing in the big city. A horse-drawn carriage casually stopping for lunch on a Sunday would be unheard of back home. And yes, it did invoke fears of a seemingly archaic way of life, but there was also something charming about it.

A curious young girl approached to ask the driver about the horses, and I saw something else that is rare in my hometown metropolis: the man driving was friendly. He was genuinely excited to share his passion with someone else. Before long he and his family were off, turning heads as they continued down the road.

Some of my initial conceptions were true. Hillsdale is a Midwestern town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But that’s not a bad thing. Never in a big city will you find people acting so neighborly to one another, yet alone to complete strangers. This air of amity, I found, persists throughout town. Business owners are welcoming and friendly, and a few have even gotten to know me on a name-to-name basis. While the strangers I have met in big cities stay distant and cold, people in Hillsdale do just the opposite.

This vibe is just as present on campus at Hillsdale College. Students are friendly to one another, even if they aren’t much more than acquaintances. I have seen friendships blossom quickly and have yet to see anyone act with pretense or disdain toward others. As a student here, I have never felt like I am out of place. Nearly everywhere I go, I have people who would be willing to drop everything to help me, some of whom I don’t know very well.

I specifically recall a time earlier this winter when the temperature outside was several degrees below freezing, and I braved my way through the barren tundra that was campus on my way to Kendall Hall for Latin 101. As I reached the door with a small army of fellow students, one student held the door open for roughly a dozen others. Everyone thanked him and made his or her way to class, but this was the kind of thing that I had never seen back home. Rarely would anyone act so altruistically, willing to bear something that may be unpleasant to him simply to help others.

This is not an isolated incident either. I see people hold doors, help carry things, and generally do their best to help those around them in any way they can. These little things add up and make Hillsdale a welcoming place.

Hillsdale is the definition of a charming small town. Despite my initial concerns, I would now gladly trade the horsepower of some new sports car for that of the horse-drawn carriage. I would gladly trade my Entering Portland signs for those celebrating what might seem like a minor success to foreign onlookers but likely means the world to those being recognized. The sense of community that you get in a small town like Hillsdale really is something to be sought out and cherished, and I am blessed to have found it.

James MilliusJames Millius, ’20, plans to double major in economics and philosophy, and is from Beaverton, Oregon. He’s passionate about music, literature, and politics. He is a member of Delta Tau Delta, and is on the executive board of Hillsdale’s Young Americans for Liberty. In his free time, you may find him practicing guitar or reading a book.