I believe in small towns. I come from a small town. A small town is not a geographical location; it is a state of mind. Small towns are defined by values and beliefs. Small town people embrace you, care about you, and welcome you as an equal. How do you know if you’re in a small town? Well if you walk down the sidewalk with you head up, exchanging “good mornings” to each person you pass that’s a start. If you sneak into your doctor’s office to see if that pain in your chest is angina or just something you ate and the next day people are calling you to see if you’re OK then you’re in a real small town. When your hometown football team is away and has as many fans as the home team then you are from a small town. It’s not population size that makes a small town.
Small towns accept all on an equal footing; you can join in a conversation with a welder, mill worker, teacher, and corporate executive without knowing who is who and that’s the way it should be, thank you very much. A small town person won’t hesitate to tell their friend from India that they didn’t understand a word they just said and in turn be criticized for not understanding English.
Small town values do not hinge on prestige or wealth. Small town folk are humble not because it is politically correct but because they truly believe that their contributions are no greater than or no more important than any one else’s. Material possessions are admired, there might even be a bit of envy but it doesn’t change how people treat you or feel about you. Unless of course you act as if that new BMW some how makes you a better person. That’s when you find out if you’re truly a small town person. Small town people who start putting on airs are quickly brought back to earth by their friends and family, it’s not always a painless process but it’s what they must do because they love you.
Small towns are not as common as they used to be. People come and go, suburbs sprawl, and populations grow but I think the real reason may be because being part of a small town takes a lot of work and dedication to others. People from small towns serve each other but ironically have no desire to be served. I believe that within every person and every community there is a kernel of small town. We see it emerge in times of distress, natural disasters, and events that threaten our community or country. That small town seed grows and sends out branches that bind us all together. Sadly, with time many will once again move away leaving the small town behind; and when they do their small town friends will give them a sincere embrace, wish them well, and hope they come back real soon.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.