My late Mother and the iconic actress Donna Reed were both born and raised in small rural Iowa towns in the 1920s and 1930s. In conversing with Mom over her 103 years, I became more and more enthralled by her life experience in that unique environment. The stories she shared were quite different from those I was having in the big cities of Chicago and San Francisco.
First is the obvious difference in population size. We’re talking single-digit thousands versus millions. The size and perceived vibrancy of the big city is a magnet for many living in what the media portrays as fly-over country. The bright lights and high energy of the city are attractive especially when you are young.
Fast-forward a decade or two and your youthful attitude may change. It certainly was that way for me. I began longing for the kind of places I used to hear about through Mom’s stories. I started years ago actively seeking a place that shared those characteristics and values.
And what are those characteristics and values? For the most part, small towns mean you know people better – what’s going on, who’s in need, what can be done to help is more obvious. The key here is that the individuals have to be more accountable for themselves and to others in the community. Life seems more personal. The pace is such that there are actual evenings to enjoy as a family. There are places to go and events to support and share. School spirit and support is nearly universal. Every issue from the economy to laws and regulation impact everybody in a more collective way.
Of course, small towns have issues – lack of opportunity, impact of changing technology, and lack of excitement. But compare these to the issues facing New York, Chicago, or LA. From my perspective, it is no contest. Show me a place that models strong Judeo Christian values, respects its heritage, exhibits self-reliance, and is always ready to help, and I’ll wager it’s a good place to call home.