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Rural Realities Blog: Four Years In

This Rural Realities blog has now been around for four years. September 2016 – the world was a much different place. Our 230ish blog posts have been viewed almost 4000 times. Thank you all for reading this each week or whenever something strikes your interest.

Today, I want to go back to the beginning: Why is this blog called Rural Realities?

I am from a rural town in very northern Minnesota. You know the little peak thing at the top that looks out of place? My hometown is how you get there. It is a town of hockey and windows (there is a factory, most towns have windows). A border town of around 2,000 people. I grew up even further out in a town of 200. I wanted desperately to escape that area growing up. I saw it as a dead-end place with nothing to offer. I saw the nepotism that came from wealth and privilege, which was palpable when you were poor and had a mother who couldn’t even pass as white. So, I left. I had adventures, went to school, did all of the things I felt that my hometown didn’t allow.

Yet, for the last almost 4 years I have focused my life on supporting rural communities. And I see my hometown in a much different light. There are genuine issues with lack of transportation, racism, economic inequalities, and many things that bubble up in rural communities. But what I have learned more about is that the true reality of rural spaces is the beauty of connection, resilience, and creativity that exists in most communities I’ve worked in. From rural Appalachia to the deserts of Arizona to the beautiful rusticity of Maine, I have seen the strength of rural communities.

The reality is that sometimes things take a bit longer to change. You’ve had the same county attorney for 35 years? That can be hard to push change. But communities can still find ways to meet the needs of victims/survivors.

But, sometimes things can move a lot faster. The hilarious beauty of rural communities is how interconnected a lot of people are and have been for years. I’ve been at SART meetings where there are spouses at the table, which can create issues but can also be an amazing benefit. But people know each other through church, through school, through all facets of life. While that can raise concerns about confidentiality, it also offers amazing opportunities if people can leverage their relationships for collective action.

In my hometown now, I see new business and downtown revitalization projects. I see new supports for people who need help accessing food and other tangible needs. I see people working together for the good of the community. I am assuming there are still a lot of issues and I’ve even read about some of them related to sexual assault. But I think that there is so much potential and strength that exists in rural communities. That is the reality. It isn’t black and white. Rural isn’t better or worse than in urban areas. There are areas that need to be reimagined and shifted from the ways things always have been done. But it has been a privilege to be able to work with so many communities to see the steadfast nature and community spirit of rural spaces.

Thank you again for four years of this blog. If you want to read another Ode to Rural, here is one of the first blogs that we here at SVJI wrote.