Small Towns and the Best They Offer
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
I come from a tiny Southern town known as Donalsonville, Georiga. I’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 view both diversity, a thing that intrigues me, and the universality of the human experience, something that captivates me equally.
Small towns aren’t usually big on diversity. And that’s diversity of many things, not just one. If you don’t think like others, you’re left out, excluded, misunderstood. It took a long time for me to find other people who think the way I do, and they’re a terribly rare and wondrous find.
For as much as I loved where I grew up, I was the different one who never fit in. I understand it from an objective point of view. Small towns are families drawn together by similar traits. They need the bond of familiarity, and diversity…too much diversity…causes fear and distance.
It’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 at times. And that’s 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 were…impressed. They’ve never seen anything quite like this but Daddy’s death showed them things I’ve talked about to them all their lives.
The way neighbors pulled together and were there when it was really important, getting my dad to the hospital when 911 couldn’t send an ambulance because of bureaucratic red tape.
The way people brought food…tons of food…a grand potluck buffet that we nibbled off of for days when we had no appetite for cooking.
The way—and this is the one that always makes my heart catch—the cars pull over for the funeral procession. The girls have seen me do this in other towns, larger towns, and usually some idiot behind me honks and makes a rude gesture for slowing him down. They understand now why I do.
There’s something about the way cars pull over and the local police block traffic on a four-lane highway to let the procession cross the street, and the way the police and people on the street take off their hats in respect… something about the way everything stops in respect and connection…something about being in a procession and looking out and seeing the response of other people… that connection 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.