I grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Georgia. The community was close-knit and in my youth, that close-knit feel is one of the things I hated most.
As a youngster, my mind equated those small town values with everyone knowing your business and getting into it.
In the summer of 1982, just after graduating High School, I left and didn’t look back. My dream was to get as far away from that small town as possible and set a course for my own life.
I wanted to live in a large metropolitan city that would give me anonymity and allow me to explore who I was without the watchful eyes of a community “knowing my business.”
After college, I made my way to that large metropolitan community. I made my way and slipped into the anonymity I thought was so great.
I made mistakes, I had successes and unbeknownst to me, I began to create my own community, that ironically mirrored those small town values that I had not yet learned to appreciate.
After 10 years in the city, I ventured out again. This time to a transient community in south Florida that embraced the melting pot that people from around the world could create.
When I decided it was time to come home, back to my small town roots, I embraced those Small Town Values wholeheartedly, but quickly realized, they had been with me, and in evidence all along.
Small town values epitomize, faith, family, friendship, hard-work, love of country and taking care of your fellow-man.
As a child I was taught these cornerstones of life were what leads to success and happiness; those values are found not only in small town America, but in the small communities we create for ourselves in cities large and small, urban environments, suburbs and in the workplace.
FAITH – My parents instilled a faith in me that has carried through my life. While in my early 20’s, I did what many people my age do. I abandoned my faith and decided I knew what was best and I could forge my own path. I soon realized I was wrong. Once I found a faith community, within a large city, I quickly realized that this small community would lead me through life.
The community of faith, allows one to plug into a group of people who like myself, had grown up with this road map.
FAMILY – I have a strong family unit. From an early child my father tattooed on the forehead of my brother’s and I “don’t ever do anything to embarrass your mama.” I think if more of us held this as a family motto, we may be better off.
While my family, like most has our ups and downs, I know that when it comes down to it, we will come together and be one. The family bond that I hold with those I love most is what brought me home, the place where I could find arms to hold me, celebrate my joys, and shoulders to cry on.
Love of family is a small town value that we all can relate to. No matter the size of the town, or the distance we find ourselves separated by, this constant is one of life’s most precious gifts.
FRIENDSHIP – I have been blessed by friends at every stage of my life who have made me a better man. Many of these friends, I equate to family. Chosen family, establish bonds that support you during the good and bad times of life.
Friendships of community are the people who clean your house, replant your flower beds and make sure you come home to a place filled with love when your mom dies 500 miles away. These are the people who gather on your front lawn on Friday evenings just to enjoy fellowship together and create silly memes for your birthday. These friendships move far beyond a small town sensibility, if we are lucky, they incorporate every aspect of our lives!
HARD-WORK – I don’t pretend the think the work I do is difficult. In no way does my work equate to those who go out on a daily basis and put their lives on the line or develop callouses so deep that their touch feels like sandpaper. What I do compared to others is easy, but I work hard at it and I learned this work ethic that has carried me through my career as a child. I watched others dedication to their craft and knew that this was a key to success.
I haven’t always succeeded in my career. As a City Commissioner for the Town of Lake Park, FL; I allowed petty differences to hold us back, this is my biggest regret during my time there. We let the people down and I will always feel remorse for those years that we could have moved forward but remained stagnant.
Success however, has been with me through most of my career. I learned to work hard and go above and beyond what was expected, this has allowed me to build a firm foundation that I am proud of.
LOVE OF COUNTRY – For much of my life our country has been at odds with itself. I date this back to Watergate, but over the past 12 years the schism seems to have gotten larger. Good intentioned people work to lead and unfortunately get so engrossed in idealism that the good of the country often times falls short.
We are a melting pot of humanity that sometimes erupts in ways that isn’t helpful. However, when pushed America comes together. No greater time in my life did I see this than when our nation was attacked, small town America and larger communities all came together to support our own. This is the America that we all love, hopefully one day that same pride and patriotism will be a daily norm and not just an ideal found when we are broken by tragedy.
CARE FOR OUR FELLOW MAN – I learned early that when someone suffers, community rallies to support them. When my brother died, our family was picked up and carried through our grief. I witnessed this when a friend’s young son passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer, and again when a young girl recently died in our community as a result of a horrific accident.
We are a good people and we take care of each other. This care and compassion is what makes us great. In our larger, yet shrinking world we find this through social media outreach when prayer circles or support pages pop up for people we don’t even know. We care, we support and we love each other in ways that we learned from childhood through our adult life.
I was fortunate to be raised with small town values. These values have carried me through my life, around the country and back home again.
The small town values of our lives make us who we are and I am proud to know that I have now embraced these full-force and in all aspects of my life.