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What bothers me most is its influence on people who don’t spend their days working in a rural setting.A preacher from an affluent urban church will address small-church pastors at conferences, quoting Berry to us, speaking about how necessary our ministry in rural communities is.
I could depend on them, and they each had a hand in shaping and forming me. Ever since a massive flood in 1999, residential streets have sat empty, their houses demolished and never rebuilt after FEMA buyouts.
On the surface, my town was a picturesque embodiment of Berry’s community. When I was in high school, tobacco farmers would leave their crops to die in the fields because it was cheaper to let a crop go to waste than to harvest it and not be able to sell it.
People are friendly, but often only after a long initiation (my parents bought our house in 1989, but my father is still not considered a local).
And in an age where fear is the dominant political language, suspicion of the stranger can twist strong community ties into an impenetrable knot.
When Walmart came to town, our small grocery store was forced to close. No one expected my dreams to expand beyond the 2 square miles it occupied.
Whenever I talked about living in other places, someone would remark, “Oh, you’ll grow out of that.
But he doesn’t linger in the grittiness of it before moving back to the ideal.
The account of a deadly winter in the novel “Jayber Crow” showcases the beauty of community and family, for example, but leaves unexplored the emotional and psychological impact of the devastation and loss.
In the fall and winter, I would walk with my older sister to the elementary school a few blocks away.
Afterward, I would congregate with the rest of the neighborhood kids or wander in and out of the local shops on the main street.