Tag Archive for small towns

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

Image courtesy of freefoto.com

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.


12 Reasons I Like Living in the Country

I did not choose to live in the country.

My husband took a ministry job in a small town outside of Waco, and I followed him here (just as he followed me when I went to graduate school). I was skeptical of moving to the country. I grew up in Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States. And I liked it.

When I left Houston for college, I moved to Abilene, a small West Texas town. I thought it was a small town (about 150,000 people). It was small. And, when I moved to Central Texas to work at Baylor, I thought Waco was a small town.

But my definition of “small” has changed since living where I live now.

I live in a town of about 7,500. I still consider myself a “city girl,” but I do like some things about the country. For today’s Twelve Series, I’m going to write about reasons I like the country.

1. The wide, open spaces. I love the Dixie Chicks song, “Wide Open Spaces,” but this has new meaning to me living here. Most people here, even those who live in town, have large yards (front and back) and quite a bit of space between homes. Many people own acres and acres of land.  I like having my own space; it doesn’t feel like people always know when I’m coming and going or what I’m doing (I do live in a parsonage, though, but that’s a different story). If I ever do move back to the city, I would like to have some land, if possible. Not much, just some. 

Even the idea that things are slower here really appeals to me. Even though I still run around like a crazy woman, I also slow down. Sit on the front porch, watch my children play in the background, and enjoy life.

2. We don’t need a Farmer’s Market; we have the farms! I love going to the Farmer’s Market, and one concern I had moving to a small town was that I would no longer have access to the Farmer’s Market I had visited for years. Come to find out, one of the farms represented at this Farmer’s Market was from the town I now live in! So, I can now drive 3 miles to the farm and pick out all the produce I want. And, unlike the Farmer’s Market I visited before, which was only open from May through September, this one had a year-round farm stand. Buying my food from them makes me happy. I also like that my children are learning where food comes from, how it’s grown, and what it means to buy local produce.

3. The close-knit community. In some ways it feels like the bar in Cheers where everybody knows your name. Shane and I have gotten to know so many people, far more than run in our “typical” circles. People who (in some ways) are different from us but who are living life and trying to do the best they can. We love this community. No, it’s not perfect, but the people here will always be very close to our hearts.

4. The stars. The wide open spaces allow for us to see so many stars at night. “The stars at night. Are big and bright. [clap, clap, clap, clap]. Deep in the heart of Texas.”

5. No traffic. I grew up in traffic. I went through 32 (red) lights on my daily commute to school. Traffic was a part of life. Sometimes it took an hour to go to a friend’s house. When we traveled for junior high and high school sports, the trip could take an hour and a half, each way. My dad worked Downtown, 19 miles from our house. It took him well over an hour each way. Driving long distances and and waiting in traffic was a part of life. I didn’t know any different.

Even though several major highways (both state and national) go through our town, traffic is not much of an issue. It’s easy to get around and there isn’t much waiting. Now, when I go back to Houston to visit my parents or to Austin to visit my sister or Shane’s parents, I dread the traffic. It takes 20 minutes to go two miles (and that’s good!). Shane and I comment each time we go that we are glad we don’t have to experience traffic like this on a regular basis. It’s a perk.

6. The opportunities to be involved in many aspects of the community. Getting involved is easy. There are so many ways to help this community, and we like getting involved, serving others, and making our community a better place. I like to feel like my life matters, that there is a purpose greater than myself, that I can use my gifts to help others.

7. My big backyard. Having a huge garden and still enough space to run around and play games with the kids is amazing. We don’t have neighbors beside us (on either side) or behind us. It’s quiet (when the neighbor down the street isn’t playing the drums!) and relaxing.My Backyard

8. The ecumenical nature of the churches here. We have a great diversity of churches here–all types of denominations. We even have a Mormon church. In large cities, people often get together with other churches from their same tribe (Baptists with Baptists; Presbyterians with Presbyterians; etc.). Here, though, since there is typically only one church for each denomination, the churches work together, play together, and serve together. Recently, we had an ecumenical prayer walk. It was so neat to see all these people coming together to pray to our one God.

We do have people from other religions living here, but I do not know of synagogues or mosques in the area; the great majority of people here are Hispanic, and most of them are Catholic. 

9. The diversity. Even though I come from a big city where people from all walks of life live, I also live in a town that is extremely diverse. Approximately 80% of the population are racial minorities (45% Hispanic, 30% African-American; 25% White). This is a very, very poor town, and my kids go to schools with other children they never would have been exposed to in the suburbs or in private schools (at least not at the same percentage–Elizabeth is one of 3 White kids in her entire class). The rate of people with college degrees is very low, but it does allow for us all to learn from each other and to see how to live together even though we come from different backgrounds and places.

10. Our church. I love the church community of which we are a part. Our church is at the top of our list on things I like best about this town. Great people with servant hearts. I’m glad to be a member here. 

11. The teachers and principals and counselors and nurses and administrators and paraprofessionals and janitors at my daughter’s school who know our children and us very well. Attending a small school has its perks, especially how “everyone knows your name.” These people care for the children and know where they come from, which, I think, makes a difference in being able to meet (and exceed) each individual child’s needs.

12. The numerous small businesses in the area. Many people who live here decide to open small businesses. Retail stores. Quaint boutiques. Delicious restaurants. Consignment shops. And other unique places. This entrepreneur mentality helps our community in many ways.

If you live in the country, what do you like about it?
If you don’t live in the country, what do you think you would like the most? The least?