Community is key. No small town can survive without the coming together of a community and you learn this at a young age when you're at the local grocery store, acting up and a parent ... not your parent, puts you in your place and tells you to mind your manners. Now of course, there are a million other ways that a community works to keep a small town thriving, but they help raise each other's kids, that's small town. Learning to drive long before you're 16, because you've been driving a tractor, golf cart, dirt bike, ATV, pontoon boat, heck even a horse ... and more since before you reached your double digit birthday, and you learn the consequences of going too fast, too soon, that's small town. You play basketball, because you can always shoot hoops on your own when there is no one else to play with ... but more importantly you'll learn how to shoot free throws, and why free throws are not only important in the game, but their life metaphor in terms of fundamentals and practice, that's small town. Going home is always the most important part of the day, it may be cheesy, but almost every single one of my friends had some sort of picture or plaque on the wall of their house that said 'Home Is Where The Heart Is' and that's the truth, because your home is your sanctuary, where you feel the most safe and happy, where your family will help you learn to pick yourself up after defeat and not to gloat in triumph, that's small town. There is nothing like an in season tomato from your grandmother's farm, the one she picked because she knew it was ripe, because she had been picking ripe tomatoes her entire life, and then she slices it, and serves it to you plain with a hint of salt, and that tomato gives you joy, because that's the only tomato you've ever known, that's small town. You learn at a young age that literally jumping off the bridge into the lake or pond will turn into figurative leaps that you will have to make again and again in your life, sometimes it will hurt, but you will always find a lesson and embrace the thrill of the jump, that's small town. Accountability. When you're from a small town, and you pick the flowers from the old lady's lawn three doors down from your house ... everyone in town will know, because there is nowhere to hide, and you will have to knock on her door, apologize and mow her lawn for the rest of the summer ... for free. The literal aspect of not being able to hide, will teach you later to own up to your mistakes, so you can stand up for everything you believe in, that's small town. Courage, to be the David and go up against the Goliath, no matter the fear and pain, because you never want to let anyone down, because they are your community, they are your friends, they are your family, that's small town. When you see someone you speak, you say hello, when they leave you say goodbye, it's called manners, and that's small town. And most of all what being from a small town will teach you is that your family, whether it's yours by birth or by choice will always have your back through good times and bad, because that's what family does, that's small town.
(Photo: Marvin K. Albright)