Let me start with saying that there are ugly elements to every community, large or small. Those things that make you cringe when you hear them: things that inversely travel the path of your own sensibilities. However, as with most things in life, we must look at the whole of the thing, the sum of its parts. We have the ability to look at an apple as still being good to eat, even if one small spot has a blemish. Small towns are like those apples.
I was one of those young teenagers who thought that my small town was filled with rotten apples. I thought that it was packed with backwards thinkers with small, closed minds.
“I can’t wait to get out of this place.”
I believed that the world outside my small town’s border was smarter, more accepting. I thought the world outside my hometown was just… better.
Then I grew. I met people. There were native big city “go-getters” and transplanted small town folks that left for greener pastures, but every person still had problems. Some times, oh hell, most times, those problems were magnified because of the pressure, the hustle and bustle, and competitiveness of their larger surroundings.
Their problems were my problems. Not enough money. Suzy is bothering me at work. What is that sound? Why are my sneakers so smelly? I want to fucking kill Suzy!
There are very few unique problems in the world. We can all suffer and we can all transcend. There are good and there are bad people. We’re all on this big blue spinning merry-go-round and sometimes the ride can make you dizzy.
In New York City or L.A. or any Podunk Hollow tucked into a forgotten valley, you name it, people can be sweet or rotten to the core. Could I have been wrong about my own Podunk Hollow?
I came back in and out of my hometown many times. Each time I came back or stayed for prolonged periods, I observed something magnificent. I saw that we are all the same (differences not included). We all want for happiness and friendship and health and safety. We all want to laugh at a good joke and sing along with a favorite song.
My small town has construction worker philosophers, logger poets, and volunteer firemen mechanical engineers. There are mathematicians, PhDs, writers, and artists who share childhood stories while drinking a beer to the sounds of Hank Williams on the jukebox. Believe me when I tell you that the same thing is happening at a Greenwich Village or SoHo hipster bar as you read this.
I can ask my neighbor for a ride if my car breaks down. I've seen my father clear snow out of another driveway if he has an extra minute before work. People carry jumper cables not for themselves, but for the “other guy.” People still hold doors open for people. Even the often maligned question, “Is it hot/cold enough for ya,” is really just another way of saying, “howdy neighbor.”
I used to think that the “backwards” thinking of the small town majority was a sign of their ignorance, but now I see it a little differently. I see that when the world seems to be spiraling out of your control that you may want to hold on to something tight, to not let go, for fear of being flung off into the abyss. You may want to hold on so tight that you cannot bear to see the alternative. It is not simply a stubborn ignorance; it could also be a resolute, unyielding grip to that cold steel bar that keeps you on the ever faster merry-go-round.
We may all have to hold on together. How do you like them apples?
-The G. O.