Small town living is a bit of an acquired taste. Small town living in the Bible Belt can be even more peculiar. To quote John Mellencamp, “I was born in a small town and I live in a small town.” I presume urban dwellers think that my neighbors are a bunch of uneducated simpletons who live boring and unfulfilling lives.
While big cities have performing arts centers that showcase ballet and opera, small towns have fairgrounds and big tents where people gather and take in “culture.”
I recall a big tent gathering that took place recently which featured plenty of mediocre fried food and equally mediocre singing performances. One of the acts was a pair of sisters, both in their teens, one more talented than the other. They did a solid job, much better than some of the other acts of the day. They sang mostly country music with one of the selections being a Miranda Lambert number.
As I sat at one of the long folding tables amongst the crowd I was struck by how fitting the song selection was as I took in the familiar yet strange surroundings. The lyrics “Every last one route one rural heart’s got a story to tell, Every grandma in-law ex-girlfriend, Maybe knows it just a little too well, Whether you’re late for church or you’re stuck in jail, Hey, word’s gonna get around, Everybody dies famous in a small town” blared from the squawky speakers.
Some of the crowd was too preoccupied with their turkey legs or fried fish to pay them any attention. Others listened attentively. Family members stood nervously to the side cheering them on, grandma whooping and hollering after every song.
I knew most of the people under the tent and most of them knew me. Whether that is a good thing is debatable. That’s one of the benefits/drawbacks of rural living, everyone knows (or think they know) what everyone else is doing. Small towns had gossip and rumor mills long before Facebook.
Sometimes I question whether my children should grow up in such a place. It seems there are fewer opportunities for advancement and more opportunities for disappointment. Maybe it would be better to live in a more urban area complete with all of the amenities and activities that come along with the geography. Maybe it would be better to live in anonymity, where not everybody knows your name (and most of your transgressions).
But then events occur that make me think that having a small town address is not so bad. My small town has been rocked by a child’s illness and the response of the community has been nothing short of amazing.
Prayer requests on Facebook turned into prayer vigils. Garage sales and fundraisers of various types have taken place in the community in an effort to support the child and her family. A few people had T-shirts printed with the proceeds to go to the family and were unable to keep up with demand.
The police and firemen raised nearly $10,000 over the course of a few days just by standing at one of the three stop-lit intersections in town with buckets and camping out in front of Wal-Mart. I don’t know if such a feat would take place in the “big city.” And if it did, it possibly would not be accompanied by the same genuine support and concern.
So, rural or urban, what’s your take? Would you rather live in the obscurity of the big city or die famous, or infamous, in a small town?