|Grain elevators = small towns in central Illinois|
Often when I'm at a conference and asked where I live, I reply with something like halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, surrounded by cornfields, in a little town that no one has heard of. And it's true, to some extent. My town has around 5000 people in it. We have two traffic lights, up from zero when I was growing up. There is no Starbucks. There are no "big" stores. It is a small town.
There are advantages to that, of course. You know a good portion of the people in town. It's a safe place to live. People help each other, and so on.
Disadvantages would be what you would expect - it is small, too small at times. It isn't as diverse as I would like. Sometimes it isn't great for everyone to know everything about you, or so I believed growing up. Honestly, if you had asked me in high school if I would come back here to live, I would have said no emphatically. But, for the drawbacks of small towns, when you have some years to your life, you see what a blessing they are.
We've raised our boys here. Chris, coming from the South Side of Chicago, experiences culture shock from time to time. Liam was bummed for the last two years when he didn't make the travel basketball team for his grade. Chris laughed - at a high school with around three hundred kids per grade, he didn't make the high school team - at six foot six. It is a different world.
But my favorite part of living in a small town is watching the younger kids get inspired by the older ones. In a small town the younger kids look at the high school kids as heroes at times. I've written about that before (HERE). Some of Liam's heroes reside on our high school basketball team.
Friday night Liam had basketball practice at the Y from 6-7pm. Our town isn't big enough for a Y, of course. It's about twenty-five miles away. Normally that isn't a big deal, but our high school boys basketball team was playing in the Sectional Championship in our tiny town. It was a big deal and Liam really wanted to see the game.
I drove Liam home quickly from his practice, dropping him off at the door to the school. Chris met him inside where he had saved him a seat so he could watch the second half. I loved getting reports on the game from he and Chris, it was a battle, and seeing the joy when we emerged victorious.
Saturday morning found Liam on the basketball court, playing in two different rec leagues in a nearby town so he can still play the game he loves. In his first game he got positioned for the opening tip - he's the tallest on the team - and I saw him smile. He showed me that he had drawn some inspiration of his own from the game the night before, sinking several shots quickly to begin the game.
What he doesn't realize, what would never occur to him, is that I'm inspired as well. It's not easy to fail, and it's far easier to give up. I'm grateful he hasn't. He knew he didn't make the travel team because he wasn't ready. He reflected on what he needed to do to improve and works to make it happen. I admire that. While it makes my own schedule a bit nuts running him to different practices, different games, I'll gladly give that up. In a small town you have to sometimes look elsewhere to get the opportunities you crave, but inspiration also lies in others. You just have to know where to look.
Slice of Life is a challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.