|A baby male Downy Woodpecker on our pear tree.|
Yesterday my six-year-old daughter and I were having a discussion about why small towns were somewhat safer than big cities. Abby asked me, “Daddy, could you as a boy walk to the park by yourself?” I told her, “Yes I could! In those days many mommies were at home, so it made a safer neighborhood for us kids to play in. I could walk several blocks to the park by myself at 6 years of age. We had a Mrs. Winters who would sit in Ashley Park and sew while she visited with us. The city paid her to monitor the children in the park. She loved us and we loved her as well.”
|Americna Queen paddle boat docking at Winona's Port.|
Abby then asked me if it is that way in Jackson today? I told her that in many respects it was the same. Living in a small town made it safe because not many people live there, and there are many people who care for each other. She then asked if Winona was as safe as Jackson. I told her that in many ways it was. “Winona is about 10 times larger than Jackson and because of its size, I don’t know as many people in Winona as in my home town of Jackson.” Abby then asked if it was ok to have more people, as in Winona. I told her that it was, but we still look out for each other in our community.
That conversation made me think about a time when I was a boy fishing below the Des Moines River damn in Jackson, Minnesota, my home town. As a young boy, I made what could have been a fatal mistake. I went fishing in the middle of the lower part of the damn, wading in knee high water. The current was a lot faster than I had been used to, and I thought as a 12 year old, that fishing in the middle of the damn would be better and I had not considered the consequences of my actions. I was standing on a large rock, and because of the strong current, it became dislodged and I lost my footing. The next thing I knew, I was facing the struggle of my life. I found myself quickly being carried down river. I was trying to swim upstream against a very strong current, but my clothes were weighting me down and I could see that I was being swept down stream very fast. Just when I was about to go under, a retired gentleman along the shore hollered, “Turn around and swim to the shore!” I did as he said and I ended up on the shoreline further down river. I lost my new rod and reel that I worked so hard for, and at that time, I did not consider what I could have lost, my life!
|Local Mississippi paddle boat showing off Winona's fall colors.|
As it turned out, the older gentleman checked to see if I was ok, and then he left. Little did I know that he knew my dad. He told my father what had happened, and later my dad had a long talk with me. My father informed me how close I came to losing my life. I had not considered that, I was only thinking of the loss of my new rod and reel at the time. Now looking back at that moment, I can see how living in a small town actually saved my life. That man could have just watched me drown, and he didn’t have to talk to my dad, but he did. He cared enough to make sure I would not make such foolish choices again, by immediately speaking to my father. He cared about me enough to save my life, and to make sure my future was safe as well.
Could this same scenario of caring happen in a much larger city? Yes, I believe it can, and does happen everyday. Today, communities form that have the same qualities that small towns possess. I have seen just that when visiting the Twin Cities recently. Now suburbs are starting to develop shopping centers, much like small towns where people can shop in the “Old Style” small storefront businesses. People want, I believe, to have community. They desire to get to know their neighbors and feel a sense of belonging, a lot like that of the small town where they may have grown up. “Watch” neighborhoods have sprung up in many suburbs. Parents and concerned citizens want their neighborhoods to be safe for themselves, their children and for young and old alike. Adults are getting together and making their neighborhoods and shopping areas safer for their families to be in. Schools are creating conflict resolution groups to deal with relationships that have gone awry, preventing them from spilling out into the communities where problems could escalate well beyond parameters of adult help. Overall, people I see in large and small communities alike are advancing the ideals of caring and supporting others, much like it was when we were young.
|Concerts on the Green - Great River Shakespeare Festival|
This is held on the Winona State Campus in June/July.
|Abby and Will playing by Lake Winona.|
Before the gentleman left, he said to me, “You know, I believe that children today are just as good as they were when I was young. This brings me so much joy to be able to do this for children. Thank you!” I responded by saying, “Thank you, you have made my children’s day.” I watched this kind man walk back to his friends and he still was smiling. I looked over to his table a little later and I could still see a smile on his face. This kind man knew the way to a child’s heart, it was through kindness and love.
Yes, living in a small town is nice, but being around people who care for my family and myself, it means more than I can say.