“NO ONE would ever choose to live here on purpose.”
His declaration hung in the air as we locked eyes over the soda fountain counter.
I cleared my throat before replying.
“Well… I live here on purpose….”
He stared at me in disbelief.
Our conversation ended on a light-hearted note as he walked out the door, but his words stayed with me for the rest of the day.
I know it doesn’t make sense at first glance. Why would anyone choose to stay in this tiny rural town with a dwindling population of 175?
Back in the early days, I didn’t have an answer.
“There’s nothing for me here…”
That’s what I used to tell myself.
There were few people our age, no young moms, and no one who shared my interests.
So in response, I wrote it off. I didn’t try. I looked to surrounding towns for entertainment and connection. I traveled away as much as possible. I put minimal effort into cultivating relationships here.
Not surprisingly, my beliefs became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Then something shifted.
I began to wonder… what would happen if we applied our full energy and intention into this place? What would happen if we stopped waiting for someone else to create opportunity and picked up the torch ourselves?
In that moment, everything changed.
I began to see our area with fresh eyes. We forged fledging connections. I started to fall in love with this quirky, windblown place. Opportunity appeared from seemingly nowhere.
The funny thing? These things had been there all along, I simply had to DIG IN to find them.
Make no mistake— community is not easy. Our struggles with opening a charter school in this town just keep coming…
We’re incredibly short-staffed at the soda fountain, which brings a whole host of challenges…
I caught wind of fresh (ridiculous) gossip circulating in the neighboring town about us this week…
It’s not rainbows and butterflies all the time.
There are days I declare that I’m moving to the mountains to become a hermit.
I still wouldn’t trade this messy work of community for the world.
So friend— try it. Invest your love and time into your place, wherever that may be, and see what happens.
It might not be easy, but it will absolutely be worth it.
P.S. Looking for ideas on cultivating community where you live? My recent podcast with Norm Van Eden Petersman of Strong Towns rocked my world. You’ll love it.