I’ve lived in various rural communities for a lot of my life. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance. Some of those communities have been healthy, wonderful experiences. Some of those communities have been sad, economically depressed, and opioid-epidemic-laden experiences. It’s fascinating to uncover the reasons for this vast disparity in how these communities evolve the way they do.
Most of these towns have the same things going for them . . .
Quiet, affordable housing,
A nice, tasty restaurant or two
Some form of unique recreation
A small team of hard-working people keeping up with the history and archives.
What’s the difference, then? The people. How cooperative they are with each other and especially newbies to town. How many long-running family feuds are still rumbling around? When times got tough, did the people in power invest in the community and develop creative ways to spark growth, or did they strangle down the economy and take things away? Like stopping paying for street lights at night — yeah, that happened in one of my communities.
Flash forward to last Friday, in my new rural community of Council Grove. Our family wakes up and gets the children onto the school bus, only to notice that our oldest son’s bright green bike was gone. We have some of those new-fangled cameras on our house and were able to grab a quick video of the thief riding off at 9:18pm the night before.
Being the social media floozy I am, I quickly picked up my phone and posted on our beloved ‘Council Grove Happenings’ page. Then, I called our beloved Council Grove Police Department. Why in that order? I don’t know. Social media floozy is the best answer.
The comments and messages were flooding in. Wishes for his bike to be returned, sad faces, angry faces, and, surprisingly wonderfully, offers to replace his bike.
Half an hour after we placed that call to the police department Sargent Lif was on our doorstep. Three hours later, Sargent Lif, Chief Wangerin, and the bike were back on our doorstep.
Bad things happen in all rural, urban, and suburban communities. But, let me tell you, there is nothing better than the community support in a small rural community. And, there is something just a bit sweeter about our community of Council Grove.
Data shows a reversal in rural communities' decades-long trend of population shrinkage. Technology has made it possible to have the career of your dreams from nearly anywhere on our planet. People are now, more than ever, ABLE to choose rural. And they are doing just that.
The benefits of a small affordable, close-knit community are numerous — I don’t have to tell you that, Council Grove Republican readers. You all proved it to me in a big way last Friday. Our family received a lesson in kindness, generosity, and community support. That is the reason we all chose to live here.
Thank you, Council Grove, for supporting us the way you did. This is why I will always be rural America’s number one fan.
Additionally, I would like to thank Kim Samples. Kim and I have never met. (Hi, Kim!) But, she sent me a message on Friday, telling me she was on her way to Manhattan. She asked if it would be all right with me if she purchased our son a new bike.
Wow. That’s all I could think. What a kind, generous offer. But, who are we to accept such generosity? We could swing a new bike for our favorite paperboy this month. I tried to decline, but Kim said, “I'm fortunate enough to be in a place where I can do this if you will let me. He deserves to know people care and not all people are bad.”
We accepted. How could we not? How often do our kids get to experience authentic, unconditional generosity?
Before Kim was back to Council Grove from Manhattan, the bike was home, but she didn’t stop there. She gifted him with a new bike lock and light. He now locks his (and his brother’s) bike up every night.
I hope he also locks into his heart the power of community and generosity and grows into the kind of powerful young man who contributes to his community similarly. And, I hope when he does grow into that man, he chooses rural.