Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Growing up in a small town was a great delight for me. I'm from Pocahontas, Iowa, a town of about 1,700 people in the northwest part of the state.
Sadly, not everyone feels the way I do about small-town life and maybe that's why the town is shrinking, having lost about 300 people in the last two decades.
Life in a small town has its rewards and its unique challenges.
We may lack the amenities of the big towns, but that just forces us to be more creative. Who needs an amusement park when you can have as much fun riding down a snow-covered hill on your shovel?
Here are my top pros and cons to living in a small town:
' Salutations: I know I'm not alone in saying hi to or waving at complete strangers I meet on the street. It feels like a common courtesy to acknowledge somebody you pass on the sidewalk. I like this because there's an assumption of friendliness among small-town folks, that you're expected to be nice to everyone you meet.
Granted, we can stop to say hello to one another because there aren't very many of us. You can't act like that in Times Square. If you wave to everyone you meet walking down the streets of Manhattan, people will think something's wrong with you, because that's just not done there.
' Strong bonds: Since people in small towns run into each other all the time, they develop close relationships with their neighbors and others in the community. If you ever find yourself in trouble, there's a long list of people who know you and are willing to lend a hand.
' Contentment: One of the great lessons small-town life taught me was how to find contentment. Sure, we're aware we don't have things other cities do. But I learned to appreciate my town's hidden treasures. One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was playing wiffleball. I can't tell you how much fun my friends and I had playing that on an open lot. I remember thinking, 'Man, I feel sorry for all those kids who live in big cities where there's no space for wiffleball.”
' Traffic: I feel sorry for the teenagers who have to learn to drive in big cities. It must be nerve-wracking. Learning to drive in a small town allows you to ease into it. Not only that, but those of us in small towns aren't wasting our days stuck in traffic. For my friends in big cities, they tell me an hourlong commute to work is nothing.
' Fewer choices: I will admit that small towns have fewer things to do and fewer places to shop. For instance, in my hometown, there was no place to purchase clothes. We had to drive out of town. But even my town had a grocery store (and even two when I was a kid!), so we didn't have to leave town too often. Some people did drive 45 minutes to buy groceries, which I thought was scandalous. How can we keep our stores open if we don't shop there?!
' Privacy: The fact that everybody in a small towns knows everyone else can be a blessing and or a curse. It's great if you're a social butterfly because you can always find someone to chat with at the gas station. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to keep to yourself, you'll have a hard time doing that. People will recognize you wherever you go. It can seem like living in a fish bowl.
' Openness: Small towns are not as diverse as big cities, meaning that you don't often encounter people who are different from you, whether it be a different ethnicity, a different religion, etc. This alone doesn't make small towns bad, but we have to be careful we don't fall into the trap of thinking we all have to be alike to get along.
The writer Will Wilkinson (a native Iowan) has remarked on how personality research has revealed rural folks to be less open to new experiences and more likely to have an ethnocentric mind-set.
I feel that people in Southeast Iowa recognize the value of tolerance and diversity, but it's an area where there's room for improvement.