Saturday, June 20, 2009

Small towns

High school graduates, college-bound students and newlyweds looking toward their future seem to gravitate away from the small town where they grew up. But statistics show that after a period away, usually a minimum of 10 years, most wanderers return to their roots and come home.
I never left.
To paraphrase John Mellencamp, I was born in a small town and I'll likely die in a small town. Visiting large cities is fun, but I can't imaging living anywhere else.
What many people don't know is that a major part of my income-earning job is devoted to small communities. Besides living in one, I work in many others. To do my job correctly, I have to interact with the citizens of those communities, getting to know their history, the locals and the newcomers, as well as the business owners, both new and old. One of the things that many small towns are particularly proud of is their long-time association with business owners, especially generational family-owned businesses. It is these small, nostalgic businesses that spend more money and time helping out their communities, more than huge box stores, chain stores and franchises.
Yes, it's true, small towns have small-town gossip. Everyone knows everyone else, their families and in many cases, their families' secrets. They know that great uncle Jasper was the town drunk or that grandma Blanche rubbed snuff while crocheting doilies for the church vestibule. They also know who stays out too late at the local pub every Saturday night only to repent in church every Sunday; who is sleeping with whom; and whose kids are breaking curfew while sneaking down to the woods behind the city park to have an underage smoke.
Small town people also know when a stranger is lurking around someone's house; when someone is sick and needs a helping hand; or when a death in a family results in the need for a little comfort.
Small towns have people who care. Some care to a fault, raising a ruckus at a city council or village trustee meeting. Small towns have small governments where personalities may clash, but for the most part, everyone is working toward the same goal; keeping the town peaceful and prosperous, one way or another.
I like living here. I can sit on my patio on a warm summer night and enjoy the sound of coyotes barking in the woods behind my house. I can watch herons do their nightly fly-over from the river where they've spent their days fishing. I can watch hawks circle overhead with bluejays and red-winged blackbirds fast on their tails chasing the predators away from their young. I don't need constant computer access. My telephone isn't always ringing. It is quiet and serene and the most annoying thing I might have to deal with after 6 p.m. every night is the neighbor kid who drives down the street blasting the bass on his car stereo so loud that it rattles my windows. But even that only lasts a few seconds until he's at the end of the street and on his way and my backyard is peaceful again.
This is why they nearly always come back. If for nothing else, it is for the peace, and eventually, no matter who we are or where we are in life, peace is what we are ultimatly trying to find.

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