There are a lot of reasons that our country is experiencing so much distress right now. If America was a person, she would be in the awkward teenage years. Unsure of where it wants to go, she’s being peppered by internal contradictions and external pressure to change in certain ways and to be things she’s uncertain she wants to be.
There’s a lot that contributes to this feeling of uncertainty, but some of the causes are more serious than others, and one is most obvious above all.
In many places, there’s a simple lack of cohesion between the citizens of the country.
In short, many communities are dying.
It’s easier than ever to never leave your home, to live off the internet and never speak to another human face-to-face.
My generation is so adverse to people that I have many friends (and known many more people) that refuse to call in to order a pizza, and prefer to simply do it over the internet.
When I was growing up, we knew our neighbors, were friends with them, took vacations with them. Now, when I visit mom and dad’s house, I get shifty looks from the strangers that are crowding my parent’s place on three sides.
In many places, you don’t recognize people at the local coffee shop, the hardware store or the grocery.
In many cities, those stores are all big-box monstrosities, not mom-and-pop-and-daughter-and-grandson enterprises.
In many, but not all. I’ve been lucky to live and work in places where the sense of community has been alive, well and despite all the machinations of progress, growing stronger.
Sidney, Nebraska, was a town that, a few years ago, I spent time in while the community was preparing for its sesquicentennial – its 150th Anniversary. It was a town plagued with economic hardships from a variety of avenues, but despite all that the community rallied to put on a celebration of surviving against all foes for 150 years.
Now I’m in Troy and Lincoln County, and this past summer has really shown me what the people here are made of. After a devastating summer riddled with tragedies, people in the community picked themselves up each time, then immediately stuck a hand out to help their neighbor rise too.
It’s this that’s let the towns in Lincoln County survive 200 years. Earlier this summer, Old Monroe celebrated its bicentennial. Coming next year is Moscow MIlls’ 200th birthday. Coming next week is Troy’s 200th. Like the birthday of any loved one, these milestones are worth celebrating. They are markers of the love and effort put into our communities. It’s worth celebrating because Lincoln County is growing. It’s improving, it’s getting better. People are coming together. In the age where everything feels like its falling apart, people here have showcased their ability to stand side-by-side with their neighbors.
No one accomplishes this task alone. It takes all people that live here or work here to improve the economy and raise their kids into future community leaders, it takes businesses to sell those people supplies, it needs groups like the Resource Board or the Chamber of Commerce to fix problems and grow the area in a responsible way.
Back in January I talked to Mayor Mark Cross about the bicentennial, and I asked him what it means for a town to survive 200 years, through a bevy of wars and into the modern age.
“It shows the grit and determination of the folks that settled the town in the first place, and their descendants that they kept things rolling along,” Cross had replied.
Troy’s Bicentennial isn’t just an excuse to dunk the mayor in a pool of cold water or a reason to get the kids out of the house for an afternoon.
Its recognizing what makes us strong, what makes Troy and Lincoln County resilient and what is worth preserving about small communities like the ones we have here.