Why It’s Not Okay to Hate on Small Town USA

I’d like to preamble this post by noting that I am EXTREMELY biased in backing up Small Town USA, and you may be too if you can finish the lyric “I got a BBQ stain on my ______ .” Having graduated high school with about 125 kids, I am well aware of the everyday complaints that our small town was faced with. “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 hear you, I get it, but there’s 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 throw your judgment out there.

First of all, everyone really does know everyone. But I never quite understood why this was coined a flaw. Wouldn’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. There’s similarly a 99% chance that when I walk to the dentist I will know everyone in the waiting room, and see my picture cut-out 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 the complaint is correct in that no, you really can’t get away with ANYTHING. Your best friend throws a party when her parents are out of town on Friday, your Mom finds out at the convenient store come Monday. Grounded by Tuesday. This, at the time, really does provide oneself with the question, “Why do I live in this place?” Looking back, however, I’m grateful to know that 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—you can expect phone calls, visits and texts from just about everyone within a 5 mile radius and an outpouring of love and support that brings 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 in this. I am all for traveling and leaving little pieces of your heart around the world; 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 found what makes their soul happy right where they are. Good for them. Those are the people to surround yourself with when you think you need an unrealistic amount of “more” in your life. They’ll remind you that 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 weren’t enough to sway you big city folk; do you know the scene in Titanic (sorry, 90’s girl) 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 effected by the brash mob. Well, what James Cameron was really trying to tell us was that Rose was actually 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 had the blessing and privilege to call Florence my temporary home. I felt adventurous and bold-seeking every day—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. A fellow small-town girl but one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. 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 4 stops along the way. We passed so many people, either walking, or sitting outside who we both knew. Some just wanted to stop and chat, others invited us inside for a bit—nonetheless, 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 houses and 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 found my favorite piece of it already.

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