With just a few weeks before graduation, Mr. Kleinmaier, the high school social studies teacher, started class with, “So when are you all leaving?”
We closed our books knowing that this would be one of those classes when Mr. Kleinmaier wanted to talk about something other than history. We had many of these classes. In fact, we’d often plan who would ask the question to push him off topic for 40 minutes. He knew exactly what we were doing, but I think we learned more through these open discussions than we did reading out of the text book.
“So when are you all leaving?” he asked. “Because you know, you need to leave.”
That does some to be the prevailing attitude. What is there to keep young people in small town USA, the place where there is nothing to do and no opportunities; the place where vacant store fronts populate Main Street and back road parties are the only weekend activities? Leave small town USA where the closing of one business means an entire town is out of work and anything modern arrives long after it lost its shine. Sometimes small town USA just feels like a dead end.
And although community and business leaders encourage folks to stay, they do so knowing so many will go and never come back.
Mr. Kleinmaier followed up with this, “Leave and learn something. Go see what is out in the world, because there is something beyond Front Street and Back Street, something beyond the tracks, something beyond Friday night football and something beyond this town.”
“And then come back . . . come back and make this place better than before. Bring what you’ve learned, invest your time. Build your life. Always. Come. Back.”
Tonight, My Farmer and I attended a community fundraiser for small town USA Sublette, IL. The community is celebrating 160 years in 2014 and a group of folks decided instead of settling for a church service and potluck picnic, this celebration is coming to town in a big way.
So, the young and old came together to DO something, to come back to their roots and give a little, build a little. In Sublette’s tiny brick community building, we ate tacos and pizza, drank and sang with Midwest Dueling Pianos. (Can I put in a plug for Dueling Pianos?! A-maz-ing!) The party lasted into the morning and I’m sure a good chunk was raised for their anniversary shin-dig.
Things do happen in small town USA. Maybe not concerts and dance clubs, swanky art shows and glitzy galas, but things happen. Chili suppers, school sports events, musicals, plays and Christmas walks. People do come back to build a life, not return to one. I run into my classmates daily, classmates who work, shop and support their community. Classmates who are now community leaders, business owners and school teachers.
Things happen because folks come back and decide that instead of sitting around complaining there’s nothing to do, they’re going to get up and do something. Hats off to the Sublette 365 committee and volunteers for doing something, for giving us a good time Saturday night, and solidifying what I already knew to be true. Small town USA is a good place to come home to
What’s happening in your part of rural America? Leave a link to your small town in the comments below and spread the word. What’s makes your town great?
Read more 30 Days of Farm Girl Memories
And find other 30 Day bloggers starting with the one who got us into this – Holly Spangler from My Generation.