Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Soul of a Community

Before I moved here twelve years ago, I moved often and lived in a bewildering variety of communities scattered across several states and from coast to coast. Mostly small towns, a few cities. I spent my young adult years as a nomad, and when I moved here in my early forties to this remote corner of deep rural America, I was ready to settle down.

Moving here, and staying, turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done.

Because moving around to all those places, I learned something a person who's lived in the same community all his life might never realize. Communities, like individuals, have widely varying personalities. Each community has its own distinctive tone and temperament. Unless you've experienced it for yourself, you might not believe how much one middle-class small town in flyover country can differ from another.

I was reminded of this the other day when a friend remarked to me that the small town where he grew up was "stifling, narrow, rigid, vindictive, the sort of place where you expect they burn people alive out in the cornfields at night." I know what he means; among the many places I've lived I can think of one (about 25 years ago) that would pretty well answer to that description. And it didn't differ noticeably in any economic, class, ethnic, geographic, or historical regard from many another (quite pleasant) community where I've lived. No, that town just had a bad personality. That was just the way that place was.

I'm glad the community where I now live-- spread across remote rural hinterlands, far off the beaten path-- has a very different personality from that. This place has a good temperament, a very fine soul. I've lived in a number of good places, but none as fine as this area I've called home now for the past twelve years.

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