Long ago I became a fan of small-town living and its unique charm. I have always felt I came to my decision rightfully, given that I spent almost 23 years in one of the largest urban areas of the nation. I know what it is to have countless choices in restaurants and every conceivable choice in shopping (and some inconceivable). I know what it is to have entertainment venues of every variety available every day. City living is exciting and stimulating.
Today, however, I am grateful not to be in the confines of New York City and its environs. Now, in what I call “The Time of Covid,” our cities remind us that time and space are assets we easily take for granted.
Time and space. Time in the Arkansas Delta moves slowly. We do not just have time for each other, we take time for each other.
When we want to talk, even about business, we are likely to say, “Maybe we can visit about this.” And we do mean visit. No matter the topic, the conversation will be about a little more than business. We always have time to stop and chat a bit.
Not pressured by throngs of traffic or faced with aggressive commuters for hours each day, even our busy days leave us time to stop and breathe—time that often results in the richness of friendships and powerful personal bonds that are much harder to develop in an urban environment.
As for space, well, social distancing is not hard for us. It may interfere with our Southern hugging, but we have plenty of room. Our outdoor space is vast and accessible. Who needs to travel more than a mile to look across a field and see as far as your eyes will let you see? How often do any of us stop to think that throughout the cities and suburbs in our country, such space does not exist? We take big backyards, big cotton fields, spacious houses and plenty of parking for granted.
Today in the business of community development, we hear that people are looking for “quality of life,” a term that somehow over the years has come to mean more, more, more—more stimulation, more to do, more excitement. But people in urban America are learning a new way to appreciate life in The Time of Covid.
Could quality of life mean living without the demanding commute, having time to savor the moment, having space to see and behold the beauty of the sunset? Could true quality of life revolve around the simple things like planting a garden, fishing in a quiet pond, or just sitting on the porch for a visit?
We have a story to tell in Blytheville. It is not just a story of rich history, or of the friendliest, warmest people on earth. It is also a story of embracing life. It is a story of human connection that cannot be so easily told in any big city. And it is story of which we should be proud.
Yes, we have problems. I agree that we are not always best at solving them, expediently or otherwise. We also have strengths. Instead of apologizing for being a small town, for instance, why aren’t we bragging about it? We can drive an hour to more restaurants, more choices, more this and that. Then we come home to our porches and our lawns and our neighbors—neighbors who genuinely know us and care about us. We come home to the fullness of small-town living—a lifestyle that in my book, has unmatchable quality.