Better than Mayberry

Small towns get a bad rap.

Remember Bruce Almighty? When Bruce visits the one town with the biggest chocolate chip cookie ever? That small town crowd had a tough time keeping their fingers out of their noses and getting out an intelligible word.

Happens all the time. Hollywood depicts small towners as country bumpkins—wearing overalls to the homecoming dance and carrying pitchforks on their daily errands.

Well, I’m here to tell you something.

Small towns rock.

I just spent a week in Danville, Ohio. Population 1000.  The high school graduation class has less than 50 kids in it. Everyone knows everyone, and the whole town comes out for a good football or basketball game.

I was in Danville because my father-in-law passed away last week. All of Brian’s family still lives in Ohio, so we came together to honor his dad’s life. Brian is one of seven siblings. Count spouses, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and half the town is family of one kind or another.

And they came out in droves.

They brought food.

They sent flowers.

They came through the receiving line and tearfully hugged each of the siblings. “I remember when your dad used to work real estate. We had a great time together.”

“He always took care of our family when we needed him,” said another who had carried insurance with him.

“I remember when you all were just little, “another said. “What a family!”

There’s history in a small town. History of families living, laughing, loving together.

There’s accountability in a small town. It’s not just one set of parents taking care of one set of kids. Everyone looks out for one another’s children and there are grown-up eyes wherever a child turns – whether they like it or not.

There’s honor in a small town. People are proud. They take care of each other. They serve when it’s needed.

There’s character in a small town. Quirky neighbors are indulged, star athletes and hard workers are celebrated. Everyone is a part.

My parents came over from Holland and settled in New Jersey, so all of my extended family lived across an ocean. I missed knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I missed doing life together.

But this last week I watched aunts and uncles scooping up nieces and nephews. I saw babies with outstretched arms and grandmas with waiting hugs and kisses. I saw siblings who have raised kids together, nephews who shared a long history of personal jokes and friendships that started in kindergarten and continue to middle age.

So no matter how things might be depicted on TV, I think small towns are the bomb. And today I celebrate one in particular: Danville, Ohio and its 1000 residents. Kind, intelligent, generous people who look out for each other, work hard, love God and give of themselves.

Kudos to you, Danville.

I loved spending time with you.

Brian and his siblings: Deb, Brenda, Brian, Joe, Dave, Kirk, Andrea

With spouses and mom 🙂