I’m back in my hometown this weekend to watch some college football, introduce my brother’s new puppy to my parents, and just overall unwind. Geneva, Nebraska, has a population of roughly 2,100 people, and we’re the biggest town in the county. We have one high school, and my graduating class was somewhere around 45 students. We have a few bars, a few more churches than that, and a movie theater run by volunteers that has two showings of one movie each weekend. The nearest Walmart, McDonald’s, and Starbucks are a few towns over, and the nearest shopping mall and Target are a little over an hour away. Yes, we have wifi. No, we don’t ride horses and/or tractors to school.
Like many rural kids, I went off to college and never came home, instead taking a job that aligned with my degree in Omaha. And I like Omaha. It’s nice to have everything that I need at my fingertips, and I couldn’t do the kind of work I’m doing now in a small town. When I come home, though, I’m reminded of so many things I’m missing out on by living in a city. That’s why today, I’m sharing the things that I definitely miss about my small town - many of which I’m sure you can relate to if you’re a city-transplant like me.
The longest commute is five minutes.
And that’s at a drive of 25 mph. If you live and work in town, nothing is too far away. A drive to the grocery store? 4 minutes. My commute to my school? 3 minutes. My gas tank was so much happier when I lived in Geneva, and my wallet was, too. There’s also no such thing as traffic, meaning my road rage was definitely more subdued in days past.
You can try a little bit of everything.
Say what you will, but I never minded the “big fish, little pond” way of life. You could pick up pretty much anything and have a fighting chance of earning yourself a spot in the play, making varsity basketball, becoming class president, or whatever. And you didn’t have to pick just one of those things - you could do all of them. As an adult, it’s pretty easy to become the head of a committee, join a board, volunteer for an event, or even be a firefighter or EMT on our volunteer squads. Getting involved is cake, and there’s no “you have to know so-and-so to get an in”.
It’s absurdly safe.
When we were kids, my parents would unleash us to ride our bikes around town and just tell us to come home when the sun went down. We stayed home alone in the summers once my brother was in 4th grade. Parents let me babysit their kids when I was in 5th grade. Nobody worried because they didn’t have to. They knew that if they weren’t around, someone was looking after us, and if we needed help, their commute time was short enough (see above) that they could get home pretty quickly.
People are really, really helpful.
Don’t get me wrong. People in Omaha are so, so nice, but they don’t compare to people in a small town. I couldn’t just go for a walk without being stopped multiple times by people asking if I needed a ride home. When I was about 12, our house flooded and my parents were out of town. There was no hesitation from the neighbors to come over and help clean up until my folks could get home. I got into a pretty bad car wreck when I was younger, and it seemed like the whole town was working to make sure that our family had meals, and I had books, stuffed animals, flowers, and candy to keep me settled for weeks. The workers at the local gift store were telling people that no, they shouldn’t buy that stuffed animal because someone had already bought it for me - buy this one instead. Kindness abounds where I’m from.
Town events are the best.
Omaha can throw a good party, but they don’t throw a party like Geneva. Things are so much more fun when you walk into a room and know at least 75 percent of the people there. You never feel awkward because the one person you knew goes off and talks to their other friends. The beer is cheap, the music is loud, and it’s not unheard of for us to close off an entire city block for a street dance. We don’t have as many events as there are in cities, so when they come around, people Live. Them. Up.
The view of the night sky is unreal.
Drive an hour outside of the city, find a gravel road, park, and crawl on top of your car. You can see the milky way, and if you wait long enough, you’ll see more than a few shooting stars. That, more than anything, is what I miss.
I won’t pretend that small town life is perfect. The gossip mill runs strong, and there can be a lot of drama when people are that interconnected. It’s really annoying to have to wait until the weekend to go buy things you can’t find in town, and you can get tired of going to the same restaurants all of the time. Overall, though, small town life is like nothing else. When one of us succeeds, the whole town celebrates. When one of us needs help, there’s no hesitation to assemble and pitch in. It’s nice. It’s home.
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Thanks to Josh for the photos!