by Charly Mann
Over the last two decades I have heard from dozens of current and former Chapel Hillians about their declining connection to the people and places in town. This may partly be a consequence of our internet age. We e-mail, text, twitter, talk on our cell phones, play computer games, but are more socially isolated from one another. From the 1920s through the 1970s Chapel Hill neighborhoods were filled with children, every church in town was overflowing on Sunday, neighbors regularly had other neighbors over for dinner, and downtown was the prime destination for dinning, entertainment, and shopping. Most of us had a strong sense of belonging to a community then. Where ever we went we ran into people we knew and almost always took the time to converse with them for a few minutes. More remarkably many of us also delighted in talking to strangers we would meet around town.
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What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.