*Sigh* I know. I know. Can I get anymore cliche with the title of this post as I sit in my limestone house, on a farm, in the middle of Kansas? Although I passionately despise the movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy couldn’t have stated a sentiment more beautifully. There truly is “No Place Like Home,” at least, that’s what I’ve come to realize in the last two months living in my hometown before I move to Africa.
I’ve spent the last two years bombarding my Facebook and Instagram feeds with photo after photo of my obsession with the beauty of the Natural State and have done a seemingly poor job of depicting how lucky I was to have grown up in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Although I have always appreciated my roots and the area of this country I was born and raised in, I often take it for granted for the simplicity of life it represents.
The town I call home, Alma, Kansas (The City of Native Stone), represents everything one would imagine a small town in rural America is like. Founded in 1858. One main street. No stoplights. No grocery store. Tractors and combines strolling through town. Farmers with their Levi jeans and cowboy hats. One gas station and five churches. Rolling Flint Hills and the most captivating sunsets on Earth. It’s America in its’ purest sense.
The town itself boasts under 900 people, so yes, we are undoubtedly outpopulated by cattle in the area. While the town may not house large numbers of families, it makes up for it in the quality of people. You see, when you live in a small rural town, that sense of community is vital. There is always a surplus of generosity whenever it’s needed. Whether its needing help with baling hay, carpooling children to sporting events, or supporting local kids in FCCLA or FFA fundraisers at Wabaunsee High School; the community always comes together to support each other.
It has been 8 years since I lived with my parents in Alma, but it often feels like I never left. I’m still greeted by name at every place I go to in town and it never fails that I end up having long conversations with anyone that I come into contact with. I am consistently waved to by every driver down Main Street and even on the gravel roads that lead to my house. At times, it seems as though the town has somehow excluded itself from the fast paced life that that I’ve experienced in large metropolitan areas, but that’s also why it’s so incredibly charming. You will never experience community like living in a small rural town.
In a sense, coming back to live in Alma before I move to Morocco was the best decision I could make. I’ve been forced to take a deep breath and enjoy the simplicity around me. It’s something I am not accustomed to after the excitement of living in Granada, Spain and Kansas City. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I will inevitably be placed in a small rural town in Morocco. Although I feel incredibly alive when I’m in the hustle and bustle of cities, I know that I am adequately prepared for my journey in Morocco because I can appreciate the beauty of rural living.
“The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.”
I am undoubtedly the person I am today because of how and where I was raised. The importance of service was ingrained in my very being since my participation in countless community projects in high school and it continued well into my time at Baker University. There are many reasons that people choose to live in more urban areas, whether that be differing socio-cultural views, the lack of amenities, or just the sheer size and seclusion of living in a rural area. I may have developed a more liberal perspective than the majority of my hometown, but we ultimately all want the same thing – to build strong and loving communities. I am beyond grateful and thrilled to use the skills I learned from my hometown to help promote world peace and friendship in a town far from the prairies of Kansas. At the end of the day, the world is full of communities who desperately want to flourish and we can achieve this by simply saying hello or lending a helping hand to members in your community.