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Rev. Joey N. Welsh: Small town virtues

ANOTHER ANGLE: the occasional musings of a Kentucky pastor. This column originally appeared in November 2005, in the Munfordville, KY, Hart County Herald and is reprinted here with the permission of the author. It was last posted for Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, but seems just appropriate for the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. -EW
The next earlier ANOTHER ANGLE, Another Angle: A good name counts in Kentucky county names, Part II

By The Rev. Joey N. Welsh
Some thoughts on small town virtues

Several years back, at a mission study that took place at First United Methodist Church in Munfordville, a discussion question asked us to think about differences among urban, small town and rural lifestyles. We shared a number of insights and images, recalling circumstances that simply dont occur in big cities.

  • I remembered that one time when my car was at the local gas station getting an oil change, the mechanic discovered that my rear tires were dangerously worn and needed to be replaced. I hadnt yet had a chance to get to my house to retrieve that news from my telephone answering machine, but I didnt need to. The mechanic had already called Ann Matera, Horse Cave City Clerk, to see where I was, and she tracked me down and broke the news to me before I was even close to getting home.

  • A member of our study group recalled that one of her familys cows had gotten loose and wandered a couple of miles away. The family didnt need to fear, though. The people who spotted the cow not only recognized her and knew who owned her, they also knew the cow by name and could be comforting to her. Thus, telephoning the cows owners was an easy matter and a simple courtesy.

  • I remembered moving to Hart County from an urban setting, discovering that I could simplify my life by relying on one maxim - if I really needed something and couldnt find it at one of the local dollar stores, I could do without for a while. I discovered that life is more sensible, affordable and streamlined when you dont depend on shopping malls, designer labels and heavily-advertised brands.

  • Folks in the group noted that they were able to trust several of the local repair people, who were also their friends and neighbors. On days when something needed to be fixed at home, they didnt worry if they had to be away for a bit; they could just leave the back door unlocked and a note explaining things on the kitchen counter. They could then arrive back home and discover that the repair was done and the bill was on the same counter.

  • I also noted the restroom arrangement at the Horse Cave Library. Because some kids had been a bit playful and messy in the restroom in the past, the door key needed to be out of the reach of small children, yet available to adults. The solution? In order to get into the restroom, one only needed to go to the librarys biography shelves and remove Kitty Kelleys unauthorized biography of Frank Sinatra. The restroom key resided there behind the book, high enough to be above the reach of kids, but accessible to anyone who knew this open secret.
These vignettes reflect a quality of life that simply doesnt occur in the anonymity of a big city. They speak volumes about why it is so easy to feel truly at home in a small place. 90 years ago, in his poem entitled The Death of the Hired Man, Robert Frost spoke of the concept of home, and he wrote:
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
Frosts thought may be all well and good, but I think it is a far, far better thing to be in a place where people take you in because they want to do it, not merely because they have to.

When the tornado ravaged Munfordville early on November 6, many people suddenly found themselves in houses that were uninhabitable. Because so many kitchens were damaged and without utilities, lots of meals were served at the spacious new facilities of First United Methodist Church, where there also would have been space for cots, if people had needed them.

In most places such a disaster would require the services of a large emergency shelter for the displaced victims to bed down at night. Did that happen in Munfordville? No. It didnt take place because the people who found themselves homeless were taken quickly into the welcoming homes of friends and family, automatically and without any public plea, because this is how people practice the concept of home in these parts.

In big cities people often dont know even the names of close neighbors. In a small town, though, there is seldom such a thing as a stranger.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, lets remember to give thanks for the way people around here live out their ideas about the virtues of life, community and home, virtues that are found in precious few places these days.

This story was posted on 2010-11-28 04:45:39
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