Small Town Values
Well, if you live in China, you might think of a small town population as being around a half million, but this is not about China, it’s about Arkansas, so I’m going to call any town population under 25,000, a small town. In a nutshell: I choose to live in a small town because it offers a better all-round quality of life than a large city. That’s my take on small town living. Here’s why:
My job and vacations take me to large cities, but when I drive back down my driveway, I take a deep breath, and thank the good Lord I’m home, and home is in a small town.
I decided to write this column after returning from Dallas last week. Yes, I will admit rush hour traffic probably kicked off the column about the values of small town living. That rush hour traffic was actually at three o’clock in the afternoon, and it lasted—get this—for two hours? It probably lasted a lot longer than that, but it took me those two hours to clear Dallas traffic, and it crossed my mind that most of the folks who made up that zoo of cars were just going about what they do every day.
Well, of course, you can get used to ten lanes of traffic, which will come to a dead halt if there is any blip, such as a fender bender—add another hour to your commute. But I think the biggest problem in that mess of traffic is the hot-shot drivers who zip across lane after lane and cut in front of cars with only inches to spare. That compounds the stressful driving.
As I eased along at 5, sometimes as fast as 15 mph, it occurred to me that these commuters are working a 10 hour day, minimum. On top of that, those two extra hours are the most stressful of a commuter’s workday. If you work a regular eight hour day, just think of how much family life you would miss by not having those two extra hours a day with your family.
Well, you might say, good restaurants, major league sports teams, great shopping, etc., are the pluses in big cities. Sure, big cities have a lot, and jobs are easy to find, but are those amenities worth the incessant noise and hassle that automatically comes with big city life? I don’t think so, and here’s a few more reasons why. Unless you have a private jet, leaving or traveling in your big city for nearly anything is tough. For instance, you might want to go hunting. Well, in small town Arkansas, many times, that is just a short walk. While trying to go on a similar hunt for a city dweller would be a multi-hour trip just to get there.
But I think raising a family in a small town is a paramount reason for living there. It is a huge advantage over city life. Just consider how many people become your friends when you live in a small town. My aunt lived in New York City until she retired and she really only knew less than 25 people, (most of them lived in her apartment building). We met a couple on vacation a few years back and our conversation turned to our children. Our son had gotten married a few weeks before we went on vacation, and we remembered the wedding in detail. As my wife described the wedding the other couple—who also just happened to live in New York City—asked, “How many of your friends attended?” Well, we knew how many the church seated, so my wife said, “Oh, around 500.” They were astounded! “How do you possibly know that many people?” he asked.
From my perspective, having 500 people attend a wedding wasn’t a big deal. If you are active in your church, members of any clubs, hunt and fish, you can easily have that many friends attend one of your children’s wedding. Now, just think of your circle of friends and think about cutting them down to less than 50. That’s small town 500 vs big town 50. Just think of the interactions that you would miss.
Of course having your kids in a sports program is about 10 times as easy and beneficial than trying to navigate across a city to deliver your kids to a football practice.
Yes, I’m for small town values, and my son said it better than I can. He was fourteen, and he left an overnight float trip on the Buffalo River to join us on a vacation trip to New York City. The first day after he arrived, we walked to Fifth Avenue, and as we stood there and looked at that sea of people, he said, “Dad, I think New York is a visiting place, not a living place.” I guess that sums it up, and as I get ready to leave the house today, and drive down to the South Arkansas Arts Center to see a play, I know I’m in for at least an 8 minute drive.