When Shane and I first moved back to Texas from Kentucky, we lived in Gatesville, a small town about 45 minutes west of Waco. Shane was the preacher at a church there. I became good friends with Amy, a girl who lived with her husband about 5 miles outside of the town. When we talked at church or on the phone about what we would be doing the next day, she often told me, “I have to make a trip to town tomorrow.” The first time she used this phrase, I thought she meant that she would be driving to Waco. That’s what I meant when I said I was driving to town. Cool! Let’s go together. To me, driving into town meant a long drive to the “big city.”
But I soon learned that she did not mean that at all. Instead, when she said she would be driving into town, she meant that she would be driving the five miles into our town, not to Waco. She lived in the country and “town” for her was Gatesville. I lived inside the city limits (and also came from the big city), so, to me, “town” was the bigger city of Waco.
It was a matter of perspective.
Last week I posted 12 reasons I like living in the country. A lot of people read that post, and, since then, at least five people have told me, “You know you don’t really live in the country.”* They have pointed out to me that since I have city water and city sewage, I do not live in the country. They also used as evidence the fact that I do not have well water. No, I do not live in the country, they say; I live in a “rural community,” “a small town.” One friend at my church even commented that she must have me out to their house so that I can see what living in the country truly means.
In some sense, I agree with them. Yes, I do live in a city. It is rural and small, but it’s still a city. We have about 7,000 people living here. I do not have to “drive into town” for groceries. I have neighbors. I have a city address. I live on a paved street. I do not have a well. I do not have a stock tank. I do not have cows or horses or pigs. I have internet access and it is fast. I have good cell service. We have 4G.
No, I do not live in the country in the same sense my great-grandmother Meme did while she was alive. She lived in a single-wide trailer with nothing else around her for miles. No grocery stores, gas stations, or schools. Not even a Wal-Mart. She used well water. She had cats running all over the place. She had a big tank in her yard that we liked to climb all over. Skunks lived under her trailer and made a major mess of things. She lived in the country.
Shane’s grandmother also lives in the country. I love going out there to the ranch. She lives in the country in a way that I do not.
But, in another sense, I do live in the country. Although it may not be the country in the technical sense of the word or in the same way my great-grandmother did, I still live in the country in comparison to my experiences of city life.
As I mentioned before on this blog, I grew up in Houston. For those of you who live in or have lived in big cities, this doesn’t need much explanation. For those of you who were part of my life in Houston and knew what life was like for yourself and for me, you know what a statement like this means. Images of city life immediately take hold, and you can imagine what big city life is like.
But for others who have not lived in a city or a bigger city, saying that may not mean very much.
When I graduated high school and first moved to Abilene for college, I thought I had moved to the middle of nowhere. Abilene was considered a “small town” to those of us who came from bigger cities. It was. About 150,000 people. Fast forward several years later to Gatesville: 10,000 people.
My definition of “small town” soon shifted. Gatesville was a small town; Waco was the “big city.”
How we regard life is a matter of perspective. Where we’ve come from. Where we’ve been.
Our perspective shapes what we see. Our perspective limits what we see.
Only when we interact with others who come from different places than we do, who have different experiences, who believe different things, can we truly understand how limited, situated, and incomplete our perspective is.
Only when we get to know others can we truly grow in our own perspectives.
*My husband was one of the people who told me that I am wrong, that, no, we do not live in the country. I think this is interesting because, like me, he lived in big cities for most of his life. I think it’s even more interesting because he has referred to where we live as the wilderness.