I’ve lived in Wyoming. And Colorado. But also Nebraska. So I take issue with a common term for the middle of our country. It is not “fly-over country.” People live there. And their lives have just as much meaning as yours.
It may not feel like an insult. You see where you live as important. And you are flying to New York. The big cities are important. Calling a huge part of our nation “fly-over country” is rude.
It paints the landscape as having no value. But the small places have value. As do the people who live in those towns. Their lives may seem small to you. But this is because you don’t know these people. Their lives are just like yours.
I spent a lot of time in Colorado working. But also getting to know people. I met teachers in schools doing their best for kids. And I met the moms and dads. They cared about kids, about the future. They worked hard to earn a living. But also took time for youth sports. These people didn’t dream of a life someplace else. In one of the big important cities. They invested in their home.
I don’t know how many artists I met in Colorado. The man who started his own cafe. So many friends helping each other. They faced the same fears as you. There were friends with cancer. Some had died. Leaders had plans to make life better. And the work of daily life was done. All of these lives have value.
I remember the woman at the pet store. Where I got Baby Girl her food. The health food store with its staff. The markets like all markets in the country.
In Wyoming I met a rancher. He cared about the land. Talking to him he shared the best way to raise cattle. It was about helping the cows to graze the land wisely. He didn’t want to destroy natures resources. His plan created a balance, and he earned a profit. At the school was a counselor. A caring and thoughtful woman. Like the rancher, she cared. But her concern was kids. And her warmth was touching.
This was in the small town of Douglas. It had a small health food store. The woman who ran it was active in the community. She was a part of a small group which monitored the school board. Because they cared about kids. Where they lived was home. And it was important.
I wasn’t in Wyoming long. But one snowy day a friend I didn’t know gave me a ride. It had snowed so deep I couldn’t move my car. It wasn’t a far walk home. But someone saw me walking and stopped. How many places do people stop for strangers in the snow.
While in Wyoming I went to a meeting of the local Republican party. It was a small group. There was a mix of people, mostly older. They shared real concern for values. The men and women weren’t a rich crowd. They were workers. People who cared enough to be a part of the process. These people are the rock on which our country sits. It is easy to believe the other is evil. But this isn’t true. Liberals are not evil. And conservatives are not evil. They just disagree.
In Nebraska I got to know more people. I had a crush on the cute wife of the mayor. She was friendly. When we met she wanted to talk about me. There was the newspaper man. He started his own paper after leaving the big paper. It wasn’t perfect. But he did his best to run the paper and website. The news was a lot of crime stories. But he also covered the schools. And he did it mostly alone.
Like Wyoming there was a local group. Every place has its activists. People who care about the community enough to raise their voice. They aren’t loved by all. But they make America the land we love. The one in Nebraska focused on taxes. They went to meetings and wrote to the newspaper. They had an agenda. It was to make their homes better. And while you may disagree with their views. I think you should respect their passion.
North Platte had an annual event, which was a big deal. The Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event was big. It happens in many places around the country. It is about ending rape and violence against women. In North Platte you would find many men walking in women’s shoes. The list included the mayor, the chief of police and sheriff. These are men who care.
I got to know some beauty queens. The often mocked women are smart women. And it isn’t all about beauty. It is about dreams and values. I got to talk with Miss Nebraska. And her charm won me over. She cared about teaching science to kids. The education of girls was a deep value for her. And one fun story I did was about beauty queens trying to bowl.
It is easy to look out the window of the plane at look down at these people. Next time drive across the county. When you look across at them you see them as real people. Because they are real people. The middle of America is an amazing place full of amazing people. If you haven’t taken the time to visit. It is your loss.