Normally I write about the opportunities and challenges of leadership. Occasionally I share observations. This is one of those time and one of those posts.
When I moved to Denver from Philadelphia, Philly was the 4th largest city in the U.S. (it now ranks #5). I have lived in metro Denver for over 30 years. (I’m the typical, “not a native but I got here as fast as I could.”) U.S. News and World Report ranks Denver as the second best city to live in the U.S. out of 125 they analyzed. With nearly 3 million in population in the metro area, it is currently #21 in size.
I’ve lived in some big cities, and in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, I’ve lived downtown. I love Denver although today my wife and I live in the suburbs.
But I also love small towns and rural areas for different reasons.
I grew up in a rural community. There was a flashing light 3 miles from our farm near an intersection with an elementary school and a variety store. “Downtown” would not be an accurate description of that area of Colebrook, Ohio. Colebrook was a 36 square mile township.
Our family was blessed to be part of a community where people were invested in each other’s lives. Sometimes the gossip was a bit irritating, but the support and friendships outweighed it.
If you were sick, a freshly baked pie would show up on your porch.
If you needed help on the farm, it was only a phone call away.
People paid attention because they cared. Since I was a young motorhead I had loud headers and mufflers on my car so neighbors learned to recognize its sound. If I came in late, it wasn’t unusual for someone to comment.
And like most things in life, I didn’t appreciate all those things as much as I do now in retrospect.
We recently visited our son in Columbia, Missouri where he goes to school. Columbia is–in my estimation–a small town. That’s how it strikes me. Because there are at least three colleges there, it has a vibrancy that other towns of a similar size wouldn’t.
I always enjoy visiting and on this trip I noted some things I’d not experienced lately in later cities:
At the airport, I summoned an Uber drive too soon. I thought our baggage was about to arrive and when it didn’t, the driver had already arrived. But it was nice that he waited without complaint.
I went into a bookstore and wasn’t accosted about what I was looking for or suggesting something to make a sale. If I wanted help, people were nearby. But they let me browse and enjoy myself.
I talked beer with a bartender in an empty beer hall one lazy afternoons. I’m kind of a beer geek and it was enjoyable to find a knowledgable employee who was also friendly enough to engage in interesting conversation.
We went to Ernie’s for breakfast and found $7 could buy a breakfast fit for a king or queen.
I found a great gym a short walk from my hotel that sold $10 day passes with a minimum of paperwork or hassle.
The downtown area, mostly bordering Broadway and then heading out on perpendicular 9th Street was small enough to walk around and explore. It didn’t overwhelm or require an Uber or cab to take in the downtown area.
Small towns are proof of how much fun little differences can make.
Anyplace you live or visit has pluses and minuses, but in small towns people generally seem less distracted and often more engaged in their work and their relationships.
And that is just one of the pleasures of a small town.
Mark Sanborn is a bestselling author and award winning speaker. For more information, please visit www.marksanborn.com