Sometimes people wonder what I do out in the secular world for a living; when I tell them I work for a book publisher, the first thing that pops out of their mouths is usually, “What kind of books do you make?” When I tell them pictorial history books of small towns, they have a puzzled look on their faces, as if I need to explain the subject further.
Simply put, these books are about the past of our rural towns as seen through a camera’s lens. Families, places, and events are captured in such a way as to give a background of a time gone by; of a rich legacy that is fading away as new generations move to the bigger metropolitan areas in search of fame and fortune.
Recently, I have read with interest, and a touch of sadness, about the ongoing saga of runaway power bills, dwindling populations, and general lack of apathy among the citizens of our surrounding towns in attracting new growth and people to our area. It seems that we talk the talk when it comes to ideas and thoughts about how we can help nurture sustained prosperity here in northern Missouri; yet, sadly, we don’t walk the walk of action in getting those things done. Things look good on paper; but they don’t look so good when we have to roll up our sleeves and get dirty. We make excuses that we don’t have enough time to get involved…but that’s rubbish.
Here’s the plain truth in a brown wrapper: we are lazy and selfish, and we wait for someone else to do things instead of saying, “Here I am. Use me.” I think about a favorite biblical story of a young boy named Samuel whom the Lord called. Not once; not twice, but three times. And, finally, his dad told Samuel to say, “Here I am, Lord.” And God used that boy mightily to do His work.
We can take this same example and use it to help institute change; and growth; and help restore those fading legacies of our small towns. Many times the little cities are forgotten in the world today, as progress has shot past us and taken up residence in the bigger burgs. Interstates have bypassed us, and revenue streams have dried up and shuttered many, many communities similar to Brookfield, and Purdin, and Linneus, and…you get the point.
Working on these history books has given me a better insight on the cultural aspects of the small town. I read with sorrow about those who left for war, never to return. I laugh at the “silly” festivals and gatherings; yet, those are steeped in years of tradition and are as much a part of the town’s heritage as their own ancestors. I marvel at the ingenuity of the residents as they thought up new ways to attract industry and hope to their area.
My friends, all of these people were moved to action by the common thread which ran through their lives…the idea of “community involvement.” The notion that, perhaps, the only way to survive in a faster-paced society would be a call-to-arms by everyone to help change lives; to help foster a true sense of belonging to the community that they lived in.
I know…it’s not easy to change; to accept new ideas. To be willing to take a step out “in faith” and rise above the fray and band together is something that is foreign to us in this self-centered world. Yet, that is the only way we will survive as a small fish in a big pond.
Come together; join together; BE together. For the sake of future generations.
Or else one day, your children’s children will read about what’s left of your once-thriving town in a history book.
Richard is pastor of Bear Branch, Purdin, and Pleasant Grove United Methodist Churches. You may reach him at his blog at https://sliceofhome.wordpress.com or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears monthly in the Linn County Leader.