“Small Towns”

A Lutheran pastor reflects on life in small towns at First Things.

Small town life has its advantages and disadvantages, but they are not the obvious ones. When the media focused on small towns, viewers got the feeling that they were visiting a distant nation not their own. They were clearly delighted to be somewhere they hadn’t been before (much like a tourist in the developing world) but were unsure how to react to something so different. The extremes of the campaigns and the coverage tended to be way off the mark. Small towns are neither Edens nor bitter enclaves of the small-minded.

In many ways, they are exactly like the rest of America. People in them watch CNN and Fox news. They have cable and satellite television and high-speed Internet connections. Kids play the same video games and wear the same fashions. But there is one distinctiveness here, and a single word captures much of it: connectedness. To live in a small town is to be connected, and not electronically or digitally. Rather it means to be connected to people in the flesh, to actual places, to land and buildings, to a common past.