No More Small Towns

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When Crystal and I grew up, the suburban neighborhoods of Chicago had a real sense of community. You knew your neighbors and they knew you. This could be a good and bad thing. There was a whole community looking out for the well being of the kids. That was good. Of course if you might occasionally get into trouble it was hard to keep a secret. Fortunately, I personally, seldom felt the wrath of the community grape vine. The safe space for kids to grow up led to freedoms seldom found in today’s communities.

My mom was borderline paranoid when it came to my safety. Occasionally, she would walk over to the school just to semi-covertly peek in the window to make sure I was in my assigned seat. Yet after school and during summers, as long as I checked in periodically, and she had a general idea of where I would be, I was free to roam to the boundaries of Oak Lawn. Generally, I was close to home playing with friends. However, exploring on my bike was also a big part of my youth.

One of my favorite destinations was the rather large prairie near Stony Creek. Nearly a mile from our home, the area was amazing. It was full of plants taller than me and all kinds of fascinating bugs and animals. There were frogs, and crayfish, raccoons and even an occasional rat (I never told mom). People also used the area as a dumping ground. I found and brought home some really valuable “treasures”. What I enjoyed most was riding up and down the rough dirt trails. Occasionally, I would use some of the scrap wood to build ramps to fly over with Henry (my bike). While I seldom shared details of my adventures, my mom knew enough to have the Band-Aids ready when I told her I was going for a ride. When I got my next bike, Henry the second at around twelve years old, the main reason, outside of my outgrowing the old balloon tired Henry the first, was the fact that the few remaining unbroken spokes could barely hold my weight. Furthermore, I could no longer successfully bend the wheels back to a normal straight appearance. They wobbled visibly back and forth as I rode.

Similarly, Crystal grew up in a wonderfully close and safe community. However, by the time that we were married, some things seemed to be changing. What seemed safe as we grew up no longer seems safe. When our children were young, job situations forced a move. We opted for a small town in Michigan. We found many of the same advantages with which we were familiar. People were friendly, helpful and ever mindful of the safety of the neighborhoods. Through several more moves over the next fifteen years we choose smaller towns/cities for the benefit of our children.

Today the Stony Creek area of Oak Lawn is developed. Many of our former neighbors complain about how the community has changed. Children don’t run or ride about alone or unsupervised. Even small towns are not the safe haven they have always been. Our close neighbor, Coshocton, just had a shooting at their Dairy Queen. Another small town in southern Ohio was connected to a serial killer. There no longer seems to be any safe refuge from drugs and violence. Children have to grow up too fast and parents can never take a day off from vigilance.

Finally, at the age of sixty-one, I get the expression ‘the good old days’. I am not stupid. I know that evil has always been with us. There were serial killers, drugs and shootings when we grew up. Today however, we live in an information age. Everything is in our face all of the time. We are desensitized to violence. Too many people feel as if they are losing the game of life (not the board game) because of all of the things, the media tells us, we need to be happy. Many choose to escape or become violent. There are fewer parents at home. So where does this leave today’s kids and their parents? I believe this is just another stress affecting the stability of marriages and families today.

I apologize for this post. I know many who read our blog look to us for fun, facts and advice. I have no remedy and no great advice.  If you are a Christian, I believe we are one step closer to Jesus’ return. The only advice that comes to mind is what I have shared with my daughter, and mother of my grandkids, Elizabeth, on several occasions. Just do the best you can and pray a lot.

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Dad and I in front of our old House in Oak Lawn, IL. Fall 2012

One comment on “No More Small Towns

  1. The greatest advice ever…. keep on praying and praying and praying. God is near to those who call upon His holy name

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