Advantages of Living in a Small Town Part 2: A Sense of Community
Drawing inspiration from our 2013 Top 10 Best Small Towns List, I present part two of a three-part series on the advantages of living in a small town. While part one focused on the perceived "lower cost of living" in a small town, this week's focus is on another broad phrase often used by people citing advantages of living in a less populated place: a sense of community. I've seen this type of connectedness in many ways while visiting and researching many of our Livability.com towns, and it's almost always a topic that comes up with the smaller towns. But what does it mean when a resident says, "It's just the sense of community that makes me love it here"? Here are a few aspects of "community" and some examples:
Safety: In a small town, people cross paths more often and therefore tend to take more interest in each other's lives. Some may call it "being in your business," but many eyes watching also deflects criminals. I will never forget the time I went for a jog in my mother's hometown of Stanton, Ky., and three hours later, a lady at a local business asked if that was me who jogged past that morning. I would not want to be a robber in that town.
Familiarity: You're more likely to know your local business people because of more frequent interaction, and that's at their businesses and elsewhere. And they are more likely to know you, too. That means more quality experiences when doing otherwise everyday things like getting an oil change, picking up dry cleaning or shopping for groceries. It's why I was a tiny bit envious of the regulars at Muddy Waters Coffeehouse in Elizabeth City, N.C. one morning when the barista started preparing their drinks almost before they'd spoken their orders.
Voluntarism: In small towns, people tend to mobilize more quickly and in greater relative numbers for charitable efforts. Pick up the weekly newspaper in any small town and scan the community calendar for evidence of this. When I worked in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., several years ago, it seemed there was a bean dinner every week to raise money for someone (and they all had good turnouts). The level of participation only grows with number of people each cause will ultimately benefit. Have you seen the mayor and residents of Prattville, Ala., in the recent Coca Cola TV spot about the company's America Is Your Park grant contest? Residents and other Prattville supporters cast 28 million votes to help this small town beat hundreds of other cities for a grant they will use to build a splash pad at Pratt Park, now known as "America's Favorite Park."
Next post, I’ll share examples of how small towns seem to offer people many opportunities to make a greater individual impact on their surroundings. SERIES Advantages of Living in a Small Town Part 1: Lower Cost of Living Advantages of Living in a Small Town Part 3: Making an Impact