Disclaimer: I am EXTREMELY biased in defending small towns, and you are, too, if you can finish the lyric, “I got a BBQ stain on my ______.”
Having graduated from high school with about 125 kids, I am well aware of the everyday complaints small towns face: “Everyone knows everyone;” “you can’t get away with anything;” “I never meet anyone new;” “small budgets;” “there’s a big world out there!”
Blah, blah, blah. I get it, but there are also some things you should know when it comes to under-populated towns (especially if you didn’t pass the finish-this-lyric test) before you cast judgment.
First, everyone does know everyone, but I don't quite understand why this was coined as a flaw.
Shouldn’t seeing familiar faces be considered a good thing? It is very likely that when I make a trip to the gas station (yes, there is only one), I will see my best friend from high school.
Similarly, there's a 99 percent chance that when I walk to the dentist, I will know everyone in the waiting room and see my picture from the newspaper tacked on the wall.
It also wouldn’t be all that unusual to grab some bar food with my parents on a Friday night, only for two past teachers of mine (who graduated with my mom) to end up joining us.
So, yes, everyone, indeed, knows everyone. What’s your point?
The very same concept is exactly why you really can’t get away with ANYTHING. If your best friend throws a party when her parents are out of town on Friday, your mom will find out at the convenient store come Monday and you'll be grounded by Tuesday.
When these things happen, it's easy to question why we live in these small towns. Looking back, however, I’m grateful to know there was an entire army of adults to keep the hooligans in check.
On the flip side, if you happen to go through a hard time in your life, expect phone calls, visits and texts from just about everyone within a five-mile radius and an outpouring of love and support that will inevitably bring you back to life.
I’ve been a witness to this, and it only made my love for Small Town, USA, grow five times bigger. Yes, everyone knows your business — so what? One day, you might need them to.
As far as the “great big world out there” argument goes, I’ve always been conflicted.
I am all for traveling and leaving little pieces of your heart around the world because it’s an astounding and revitalizing thing to do for your soul.
Do it if you can; do it if you want to. But, don’t look down on people who are content with that they have. Maybe they’ve discovered what makes their souls happy right where they are. Good for them.
Those are the people with whom to surround yourself when you think you need “more” in your life. They’ll remind you all you really need is a roof over your head and the people who call you home.
Plus, to be totally honest, even hiking along the coast of the Ligurian Sea doesn’t beat out the view of Gram opening her front door, always excited to see you.
If these reasons aren’t enough to sway you big city folk, consider the scene in "Titanic" when Jack takes Rose down to the lower deck of the ship. She’s all fancied up in her evening gown, but jumps right into the crowd, chugs a dark-brewed beer, arm wrestles and isn’t at all affected by the brash mob.
Well, what James Cameron was trying to convey by this is Rose was a small-town girl, once upon time.
As great as it may feel to get dolled up and make a fuss of yourself from time to time, there’s nothing cooler than a girl who can hang -- let’s be real.
I’ll leave you with this: Last summer, I was blessed to be able to call Florence my temporary home. I felt adventurous and bold every day, which was a feeling I never wanted to let go. I cried my eyes out the night I had to leave.
A few weeks after stepping foot back on USA soil, I attended a very sweet first communion for my dear friend’s third daughter.
After the ceremony, my roommate (another hometown hero) and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and drive through town. We wanted to stop in at the local community theatre’s rehearsal run by our elementary school art teacher, but made about four stops along the way.
We passed so many people we both knew; some just wanted to stop and chat and others invited us inside for a bit, but they were all genuinely pleased to see us. There was something about the comfort and ease of that day that made me realize I was exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Even though there will always be a part of me that wants to trot my way around the globe, there’s nothing like listening to some Blake Shelton in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, passing homes of families you know and love.
There is a big world out there, and I plan on seeing more of it; I’m just lucky enough to have already found my favorite piece of it.