Friday, December 12, 2008

Small Towns, Large Values

The busiest intersection in Hemingway, South Carolina

This past Wednesday night, I went to Wahalla, South Carolina, to visit my niece, nephew, and sister-in-law, upon the death of Kent, my sister in law's father. This is a family that has seen more than their share of tragedy in the past three years with the deaths of three very special people. My brother, Eric, always liked Wahalla; I could see why at the funeral home Wednesday night. Wahalla is a small enough town where most people know each other and treat each other like family. There was a presence Wednesday that spoke to that. I feel comfortable that my family there will be cared for daily by their church and community in ways that would make Eric, Kent, and Joan proud.

I am finding Gaffney to have that same kind of atmosphere. It is a bigger town than Walhalla but the values of community are still present. I guess I am partial to small towns. I grew up in Hemingway, which shaped me a great deal into the person I am today. I have lived in Spartanburg, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and Charleston; but in those places the school or the local church served to convey those community values. Small town certainly face problems today--- plant closings and economic challenges, the school systems aren't as well funded and sometimes attitudes are not open to healthy change.

South Carolina is a state of small towns and rural villages, but not for long. As less people farm, and more textile operations close, the children of the small towns flock to the larger cities for jobs and educational opportunities. My hope is that with these changes we can still find ways to relate and care for one another as it was done in the past in places like Wahalla, Hemingway, and Lowndesville.

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