Grit Blogs > A Well-Worn Path

Small town living and giving

Lou Ann head shotSometimes I think people on the coasts think that our farms and small rural towns out here in the middle of the rectangular states are for no reason other than to keep the strip malls from running into each other. Well, that and to dump their waste out here where, on the rare occasion they pass through, all they see is “nothing for miles.”

Well, if you’re from a small town or presently live in or near one, you know that there is a lot going on in these small country towns, including a quality of life that can’t be
beat! When driving by a neighbor’s house, we may slow down and potentially strain our necks looking at what’s going on there, but it’s not “snooping” as much as it is checking up on each other. Oh sure, we may have a tendency to gossip about each other now and then. But there’s a fine line between gossip and simply catching up on everyone’s well
being.

I had the opportunity to check up on many of my neighbors over the weekend. Saturday morning, Belvue, the small rural community that I live near, had a memorial breakfast for a local family who had lost their three-month-old daughter to a muscular atrophy disease. I was honored to have been asked to help. Part of my job description was to chat with people while they dug into their biscuits, gravy, eggs and sausages. I was more than happy to help, and relieved I was given a job for which I have some proficiency. After all, I’ve been fairly successfully talking now for several decades!

One of the things I learned was that not that many of the people who came to the breakfast and dropped bills and checks into the jar knew the family to which the proceeds were going. It didn’t matter to any of them whether they knew them or not. Someone in our community needed help, and everyone was happy to help out. In the three hours that breakfast was served, close to 150 people came by to contribute toward the family’s medical and funeral expenses. Belvue has a population of only 205.

That’s one of the things about living in small town communities – they really do take care of their own. Belvue has a community breakfast every first Saturday of the month as a fundraiser for the new city park. So far the park sports a ball diamond, basketball court, a shelter house, some new playground equipment and horseshoe pits. A volleyball court, huts for the horseshoe pits, bleachers and other projects are in the works or planned for the future.

Now this little town of a couple hundred warm bodies could have sat around complaining that there was no place for kids to play, that there was no government help when they needed it, and that they were too small and too poor to attract corporate donors. But they didn’t. They got to work, pulled together, and over the years have built their park from the ground up, one volunteer, one step,
one plate of eggs and sausage at a time.

And when someone in the community who is sick, or is facing a serious challenge, who needs a ride to the doctor, or a hand up, or who has lost a child and are facing enormous bills they cannot pay, the people in small rural communities step up and take care of each other. That’s what small town people do. They do what they can, wherever they are, with what they have.

I’ve lived in several cities through the years, and they aren’t always as cold and uncompassionate as many in the country may think. But for a taste of the good life, give me a small town any day - along with some of those home-cooked biscuits and gravy!

 The Belvue City Park is a symbol of small town cooperation
charles mallory
3/13/2012 12:38:08 AM

I have lived in a small town and big cities and everything you write here is on the mark. I have found that even in big cities, people try to form their "small communities" for a network of support. It's just that in the peaceful rural life it's much easier and takes much less effort!


louann thomas
3/12/2012 2:13:41 PM

Patt, It does indeed sound like you've found a little slice of heaven in Idaho!! Thank you so much for reading my blog and for takign the time to respond!! Hope your basket continues to overflow with good food, good neighbors and goodness of all kinds!


patt pruett
3/9/2012 3:51:54 PM

Oh my! What a great column! I too live in a small town, Kimberly, Idaho. I moved here in July 2011 and LOVE IT! More than when my husband and I decided to move here. We just broke the 3,000 mark of residents. My neighbors plant huge gardens so we who can, can! I was here two months when I was given bushels of tomatoes. Luckily I already knew how to can, so I put up almost all of them. I got beets, zucchini, onions, peppers. Oh I was in heaven. My other neighbor told me they were going to get potatoes and did I want any. I said yes! So within two hours they came home with 15 five gallon buckets of potatoes! They went to the farmer's field to pick the left overs, and the farmer came out and helped!! Napa Valley, CA never helped!! I'm SOOO in heaven. My husband will move here within the next 6 months and we can't wait!! Thanks for the wonderful article!!


mary carton
3/9/2012 12:41:47 AM

Sounds like my home town of Tuscumbia, AL. Our neighbors growing up would come and help you if you were doing something like worming or hauling hay and you didn't have to ask and Dad would go and help them when they needed. Most of those folks are gone now.


louann thomas
3/8/2012 4:51:32 PM

Thank Nebraska Dave! I agree, I also believe this small town looking after each other mentality likely is passed down through generations of farm/small town folk. Back then, living away from bigger towns and cities, you had to look out for each other in order to survive!! But I also know there are a lot of people like you in citiies who have taken that giving spirit and are making their own neighborhoods better because of it!! Thanks for reading and thanks for taking the time to comment!! You have a great Nebraska Dave Day!!


nebraska dave
3/8/2012 3:23:01 PM

Lou Ann, I'm glad to see that small town midwest mentality lives on. I grew up in small towns but also have lived in big cities like St. Louis as well. I always tried to make the neighborhood a better place than it was when I moved in to the neighborhood. It's a little more difficult to have what you describe in the bigger cities except for just the surrounding neighbors. I now live in the urban area of the largest city in Nebraska. The neighborhood on my street is a great neighborhood but nothing like the small town bonding that goes on. I believe it's a throw back to our grandparents days. Everything hinged around the community from the men harvesting to the women preserving. It was all done with community activities. As a result when one couldn't plant the seed or preserve the harvest the community surrounded that family and did it for them. That kind of gets lost in city or urban living. Thanks for sharing that inspiration that small town America still has that mentality. Have a great Belvue day.


cindy murphy
3/8/2012 12:44:04 PM

Hi, LouAnn. You wrote: "I’ve lived in several cities through the years, and they aren’t always as cold and uncompassionate as many in the country may think. But for a taste of the good life, give me a small town any day....." I'm in total agreement. Having lived in both off and on throughout my life, I can attest that it doesn't matter if it's a city or small town, neighbors always help neighbors, and strangers pitch in to help strangers. The difference between it happening in a city versus a small town, I think, is that in a city, you often pitch in to help, and once the goal is achieved whatever it may be, often people go their separate ways. In a small town, there's a greater sense of community, and strangers in the beginning become neighbors in the end. I love my small town. Thanks for a great post.


louann thomas
3/7/2012 10:53:20 PM

Thanks Joshua! I agree that helping is each other is part of our human spirit, and one of the things that makes this country so good! I bet, in all the communities that were hit recently by the tornadoes this kind of thing is happening over and over again!! Thanks again for reading my blog and for taking the time to comment!!


louann thomas
3/7/2012 10:51:23 PM

You are so right, Christine! Leaving did help me appreciate what I found when I returned. I love your story about meals showing up after your surgery! So often they don't ask, they just pitch in and help. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!


christine byrne
3/7/2012 8:25:48 PM

I think those of us who grew up in or near a small town have to leave it for a few years to really appreciate small town life. I remember being shocked at how rude and impersonal people seemed in the city when I first got there. I also remember how charmed I was, after returning to a small town, to be the recipient of home cooked meals delivered every night for a week after I had shoulder surgery. I never asked, they just did it, because that's what you do in a small town.


joshua barmore
3/7/2012 7:14:12 PM

What a awesome story of the power of the human spirit. More of us need to start lending a hand to help each other out, that's what made America great. People rolling up their sleeves to take on a task no matter who is the one benefiting from it. I would like to say that you did a AWESOME job on telling about rural America. God Bless and Thanks for the read.