Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Town.

Today I woke up early.

My parents just left after visiting me where I live in Hannibal, MO for Father's Day weekend. Slowly I can feel the internal rhythms of my home recede back to a more normal current. When they were here, we took a ride on the Mark Twain Ferry, which docks just out by downtown on the Mississippi river. Waiting on the top of the boat for all the trains to clear the river tracks, one can witness an entirely different sort of town. I know I've written on perspective a time or two before, but this time, it was experiential. I've lived here, altogether, for about five years now- and I'm sure you can relate about routine drives to gas stations; or the street which leads you coasting down or muscling up the hills towards your local grocery story. Circuits. Daily drives. Mundane knowledge which just comes with daily living. But sitting there with my wife, mom and dad on the top deck- the foghorn-like blare of the ferry resounding off Hannibal's countless hills, I think I began to see my town a little differently. The streets are where they are because the river landing used to be bustling with countless steamers. The train tracks just beyond it used to boast fifty trains a day. These foundational groves are still evident. Look East across the river, and the undiscerning eye might spy only a humble park with a small dock- but look closer! Poking sheepishly up through the muddy brown waters are the broken teeth of giants: the first interstate highway bridge to span the area. Can you imagine if the people living two, three, maybe four miles away were suddenly inaccessible to you? Many of us drive farther than that just to see a movie or go to our own churches. To give you a better idea of how important distance can play as a factor, the next "major" town north of us is Quincy, IL. Twenty miles away now means it takes roughly twenty-five minutes to reach by car. But once- during a different time in an older world that would take you an entire day to walk to. ONE WHOLE DAY. My parents flew back to Albuquerque out of St. Louis with time to spare. The pioneers are rolling in their graves.

Back to the river boat Mark Twain- taking off, bobbing softly up and down over the huge river's current, you can look back over the town and witness your life- your well-travelled circuits and familiar old arteries under a brand new light. And you are apart of that somehow. Recently I read a local history, "Quincy in the Civil War"- and you know what the funny thing is? All those serious looking people captured in black and white still look identical to the people who still live here today. I'm not kidding. Mark Twain talked about the five dialects of Marion County- the one where Hannibal resides- stick around here long enough and you can still pick them out today the lions share of all those families still live in the area.

If you were to take a drive from where I live in Hannibal, to the little white country church where I pastor at is in Payson, IL you'll see little seemingly unremarkable blips of signs as you speed by. The Marble Head Exit- Fall Creek- East Hannibal... but each of them has a story. Each of them flow into the others- like some vast, slow moving human puzzle. Even the highway you'll whiz by on has a tale. It'll be marked 72 on your maps these days- but in order to not be ignored by Chicago, as any one who lives in or near IL knows is really the true capitol of the state, the local region around Quincy had to lobby to become their own state! Forgotopia. Yep. Imagine fitting that state in next to Florida the next time you sang 'Fifty-Nifty'. All roads lead to Rome in the ancient time- and the general principle is still true around here- except these days, they lead to Chicago. And because Quincy and Hannibal reside just on the belly-button of M.I.M.A.L- that little man in the US map- the area was largely ignored by road builders during the early turn of last century. It's dedicated to Frank Strieby- and if you ever climb to the top of the "closed" Fall Creek park, the same man's memorial look out point is still commemorated there, behind the tangles of vines, tall grass and old, now wild apple trees which used to fill the whole region once.

If you've read this far, congratulations! I know I don't usually go in for history posts, but that's just what came out this morning. I guess my point is how you are apart of your own vast local tapestry of people and places. You are living history. You are the one who is responsible for passing this down to others, because lets face it- one day the internet will die. I know, I know! It's unthinkable. But it's true. Seeing where I live from an old angle- let me see my daily life from a whole new light. Sharing this with my visiting parents was sharing a joy. And that's the best sort. I remember telling Steph, my wife later how after seeing all this- sharing all this again- You know, I really like our little church. I really love my little home on Pleasant st. I like our small garden and our mischievous cats and escape-artist dogs.

I confess, right now I'm kinda broke. I recently got laid off and my wife's little Christian store in Quincy, The Mustard Seed, is going out of business this month. I've been so upset my stomach's been winding up tighter and tighter... and there was (and still is) a very real possibility which might demand us to move in order to find jobs which will pay more than minimum wage for people who hold degrees. But I know now (and call me stubborn if you wish), this is where I live. This is home. And I'm apart of it. And that means something. So wherever you live today, that is where you are. God has placed you there for just such a time as this. Make it your own. The exiles in the Old Testament were promised by God that as you prosper, so will the city you have been exiled to will as well. So put some roots down. Make your town better any way you can. (It's why I will continue to leave my porch light on when it gets dark and keep up with my yard.) Make your local church better any way you know how. Then, as you prosper, so will they. And together, we can make America awesome again. One porch light at a time. One Church at a time. Each person at a time.

Pass it on.   

Like what you read? Join in with your own insights, stories and art- send them to ryanpfreeman1@aol.com. Thanks and God bless -Ryan

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