Small Towns and the Best They Offer
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
I come from a tiny SouthernÂ town known as Donalsonville, Georiga. Iâ€™ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with it and I finally figured out why. It all comes down to how small towns Â view both Â diversity, Â a thing that intrigues me, and the universality of the human experience, something that captivates me equally.
Small towns arenâ€™t usually big on diversity. And thatâ€™s diversity of many things, not just one. If you donâ€™t think like others, Â youâ€™re left out, Â excluded, Â misunderstood. Â It took a long time for me to find other people who think the way I do, and theyâ€™re a terribly rare and Â wondrous find.
For as much as I loved where I grew up, I was the different one who never fit in. I understand Â it from an objective point of view. Small towns are families drawn together by similar traits. They need the bond of familiarity, and diversityâ€¦too Â much diversityâ€¦causes Â fear and distance.
Itâ€™s not that lack of diversity is a bad thing for small
towns, but when you relish diversity, it makes life a little more difficult Â at times. Â And thatâ€™sÂ the heart of my dilemma with small towns.
The very best that a small town has to offer can be summed up in how it treats its own in times of greatest grief.
My daughters Â wereâ€¦impressed. Â Theyâ€™ve Â never Â seen anything quite like this but Daddyâ€™s death showed them things Iâ€™ve talked about to them all their lives.
The way Â neighbors Â pulled Â together Â and Â were Â there when it was really important, getting my dad to the hospital when 911 couldnâ€™t send an ambulance because of bureaucratic red tape.
The Â way Â people Â brought Â foodâ€¦tons Â of Â foodâ€¦a grand potluck buffet that we nibbled off of for days when we had no appetite for cooking.
The wayâ€”and this is the one that always makes my heart catchâ€”the cars pull over for the funeral procession. The girls Â have Â seen Â me Â do this Â in other Â towns, Â larger towns, Â and Â usually Â some Â idiot Â behind Â me Â honks Â and makes a rude gesture for slowing him down. They understand now why I do.
Thereâ€™s somethingÂ about the way cars pull over and the local police block traffic on a four-lane highway to let the procession Â cross the Â street, and the way the police and people on the street take off their hats in respectâ€¦ something about the way everything stops in respect and connectionâ€¦something Â about being in a procession Â and looking out Â and seeing the response Â of other peopleâ€¦ that connection Â with other people on such gut level understanding of deep personal loss.
That is the universality of the human experience. And it is at its very best in small towns.