It’s a Matter of Perspective

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.”

Living in the Country

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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.

  • She­lia

    Hav­ing lived in the metro­plex (Dal­las), a sub­urb of Atlanta, Geor­gia, Nashville, Ten­nessee, and now in the “coun­try” out­side of Mexia, TX where you now reside, I feel some­what qual­i­fied to com­ment on your per­spec­tive as I share some of your expe­ri­ences, even though I never was blessed or cursed to live in Hous­ton.  There are other places besides Hous­ton with shop­ping and cul­ture and places to dine.  I think the need to cor­rect your use of “the coun­try” in describ­ing” where you live is just peo­ple let­ting you know that when you can get to a store to buy milk or a soda as quickly as you can does not con­sis­tute coun­try liv­ing.  You live in town, albeit a small town.

    • Kara Poe Alexander

      Per­haps we can agree that I live in a small town in the coun­try. That’s how I view it.