Ever had a question that hits you out of nowhere and won’t let you be? This has been my situation lately.
Stuck at a red light one day, I stumbled across a peculiar thought: what’s special about small towns, mine in particular?
Whether turning on 2nd Street (our version of Main), cruising past the churches and banks, avoiding the Wal-Mart, or hurtling down the countryside, I couldn’t help but wonder: why do we- a small, rural community- work?
I think affectionately of my little Cochran, Georgia as “God’s Country,” although I’m told this is a common thought process for many who live in small towns.
This bit of ground is important to me, though. I’m fiercely loyal to it. Those I love either live or originated from here. Though I moved away for a while in college, I now work, play, and do everything else here in this little city.
A Town that Defies All Odds
I guess the foremost reason for my wonder about our success is that, from the exterior, Cochran looks hopeless, its future bleak.
A large percentage of the community lives in poverty.
There isn’t much to do on the weekends.
We don’t have access to amenities typical of larger cities.
We have really spotty WiFi.
Often times, people shop out of town because larger retailers can offer prices that mom and pop stores might not be able to.
In the world of information growth and technology, it’s strange that small towns like Cochran can survive. The foundation for our longevity is one baseline belief:
We understand that we can either work together or starve apart.
Work Together or Starve Apart: A Teamwork Mentality
The heart of a small town is the link that exists between its people. That’s the beauty of small town life: we’re all inextricably linked by our reliance on one another.
As a collective, the people of small towns know that, should one part of the community fall on hard times, we all suffer the sting. That alone sets us apart: we’re brought together in such a way that there’s no way to ignore the hardship others feel.
I am grateful for the generosity of my town.
In Cochran, many barely make ends meet or simply do without.
However, when one of our own has needs that he or she can’t fill, the community steps in: children get jackets, people get fed, food is collected, money is donated.
People scrape the bottom of their barrels to make sure someone else’s doesn’t run dry.
I am grateful for the understanding of this community, realizing that when one succeeds, we all do.
So many generously support community sports and clubs. People buy the tickets, the sheet sets, the advertisements, the cakes, the drinks, etc. because we remember, in our own way, what it was like to be a child at the mercy of another’s charity.
There is a resilience bred in small towns. We weather the storms, refusing to roll over and die when things get tough. Part of this resilience is the strength we draw from one another.
What Do We Do That Sets Us Apart?
We support the small town businesses because we understand that there are dreams in this town, and these dreams are worth putting money into.
We understand that, when you support small businesses, courage becomes contagious: the number of businesses will grow because those who have the desire to do so realize that people ARE WILLING to help here, to stay here.
We give to this country, as men and women have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of freedom and the protection of American values.
We celebrate those who gave of themselves, as is evident by the flags lining our streets in honor of those who served our country in the military.
We notice when others are missing from certain spaces because it’s easy to see who is missing when there aren’t that many people to begin with.
We credit the farmers’ contributions to the growth of our town and communities everywhere, and we mourn with them when storms hit, decimating cotton fields and putting farmers at a loss, both for words and the ability to pay back the farm loans for the season.
We grow, realizing that, though we can have the old-fashioned feel of a city from days past, we can’t remain stagnant, running the risk of losing our home itself.
We work. We suggest. At times, we complain. We encourage. We love.
What Even is this Town to Us?
We, the individuals, are so irrevocably intertwined with this city that, in many ways, we are the small city itself. This is our home.
To separate us from this place would be to separate us from our core beings, for the very soil we walk on is that which made us into who we are today.
This small town, for us is…
Hayrides and “Hows ya momma n ‘em?,” neighborhoods and niceties, country fests and Christmas parades.
Sitting by a fall bonfire and striking out at the summer softball league,
Fighting for a future on free and reduced lunch.
Calling folks aunt and uncle, knowing good and well there is no blood relation between you.
It’s a place of sunsets and sunrises, farmers’ markets and faith, triumphs and tears.
Home to fields, both farming and football.
A dedication to hometown heroes and a celebration of those who succeed.
The locale of old farmers and old men gathering for grits and gossip before work.
A town built on holding hands and hanging in there.
It’s a patchwork quilt of diverse hopes and hurts, dreams and disappointments, stories and setbacks.
Quite simply put: for us, well, it’s home.
The Heart of the Matter
Our small town is at the core of our being. It seems that all roots and roads lead back to Cochran.
My heart swells with pride because of my small town.
We aren’t perfect, and we sure don’t have it all together. We fuss and fight, but the same person who rips you a new one on Facebook is the very one who will help you off the side of the road the following day, should your car break down.
I have been blessed by God Himself to have been born in this small town, a town built on the knowledge that there are only two ways to work in this community: hard and together.
It’s the place I ache for when I’m not here and the place I will always carry in my heart. No matter where my feet are, my heart will be planted in Cochran, GA, my small town and the place I will always know as home.
It’s November- a time to be thankful. Make no mistake: when I count my blessings, my small town is near the top of the list every time.
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