The Value Of Small Town Living

Quite a few years ago (decades to be exact), a distant relative of mine (who had migrated to the Atlanta, Georgia area) confronted me with a question. Perhaps he perceived or thought in his (not mine) assessment of my ambitions, abilities, and drive to succeed that I was out of place and wasting my God-given talents and destiny in a small, rural community, like Dillon. To be perfectly honest with you, he was not the only person who shared those words with me. I have had people in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and other large, urban areas, where I have ministered over the years, to assure me that if I were pastoring in their area, I would be the spiritual leader of a huge, if not mega ministry and church. Were those words from various people who lived in these highly populated areas (where there are more professionals and people with good jobs and salaries) alluring? Absolutely! Nevertheless, after consulting the Lord and considering the matter, it became evident that He wanted me to stay right here in the community where I was born and reared. Here I am after 48 years of serving God and people in this community. I will most likely be here when He calls me home from earth to glory. The focus of my column today is to a great degree a result of me living and staying in Dillon, a small, rural, and southern community that some who migrated to other cities and states with much larger populations and opportunities determined were lacking here.
For many African- Americans, this migration started way back in the forties, the fifties, and the sixties. It was historically a part of the great migration when many Blacks were compelled to leave the South in search of better jobs, better living conditions, and to escape the suppressing, sweltering, and stagnant effect of Jim Crow. Admittedly, things have gotten much better for African-Americans who live in small, rural, and southern communities, like Dillon. Though we have stopped quietly progressing and are earnestly endeavoring to come alive on 95 and be a more ethnically inclusive and empathetic society, we still have a way to go to become a more perfect union.
Thank God that though we are not where we (minorities) want to be, we are certainly not where we use to be. Much advancement and progress have been achieved politically, occupationally, economically, and nearly in every area. Perhaps this explains the reversal in the great migration. Many African -Americans who left Dillon and other small, rural, and southern towns have taken up stakes beyond the Mason Dixon Line and moved back to their southern and small-town roots. Most have come back after working up the road (a term for the north) and retiring. Paraphrasing the great scholar and educator Booker T. Washington, “They were born in the South, they have returned to the South, and they expect to be buried in the South.” These people who have experienced life in the city and large and heavily populated urban areas are more than willing to make the transition and migration. It is a given that when it comes to culture, entertainment, and living in the light of cities and communities that never sleep, if this is your desire and preference, you cannot beat living in large and heavily populated urban areas. However, though we can not lay claim to having these things readily at our disposal, there are some advantages and benefits of small town living that we often overlook and underappreciate. I have visited many of the large urban areas of our nation, like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and many others (both foreign and domestic). However, due to the traffic congestion, back-ups and delays, and the hustle and bustle of city living, these places (that contain much more culturally enriching sites, activities, entertainment venues, and things to do) are good to visit, but I certainly would not want to stay in them indefinitely. (Ironically, I am in Jamaica Queens, New York at the Radisson Hotel near Kennedy International Airport. My journey here from the Poconos in Pennsylvania truly has strengthened my dislike for these urban and highly populated areas. Without saying anything that will offend the people who hosted and invited me to speak at their church in the morning. They are some very compassionate and hospitable people who always go out of their way to honor me and give me the red-carpet treatment when I am in their city.) Nevertheless, because I am a small-town country boy at heart, I have learned to appreciate and relish the benefits and blessings of small-town living.
True, we are deficient in areas of what some label as culture, sophistication, and city living. However, as true as that perhaps might be, there are some things about small town living that overly compensate for what the city dwellers have that we do not possess. Every time I visit New York City, Chicago, Atlanta or one of the other large metropolitan areas and get stuck in heavy traffic or a back-up, I thank God for living in a small town where I do not have to contend with congested traffic like people do who have to drive to and from work each day. Then there is the matter of people who either rent, lease, or buying their own home. The outrageous and high cost of having to do either of these three options, plus the property taxes for those who own their own home is staggering. I certainly do not envy my relatives or friends who live in the congestion and hustle and bustle of these large metropolitan areas. Never mind about the culture, sophistication, and thrill of city living. I choose the quietness and laid-back living that comes with living in a small and rural southern town, as well as the hospitality and friendliness that southerners are well known for. This is a place where you can cruise on your motorcycle or take a relaxing drive in your car on a country road without traffic congestion and long back-ups and delays. There are many more comforts and conveniences to living in a small town as compared to city living that I do not have the space to include in my column today. However, I think I have presented enough to help you value small town living.