Jerry Bridges once said, “Practice of true community involves responsibilities and actions that do not come naturally to us.” No one, nowhere, nothing is perfect. I am lucky to have grown up where I have. Greenwood, Arkansas doesn’t boast a high-crime rate or an unsolvable amount of dilapidation. We have a top rated school district and a winning football team. From the outside looking in, we are the perfect cliche of a little bit of backwoods mixed with hometown barbie, now graduated and on the elementary PTO. We are the southern town seen in the movies, and just like those towns, we have our fallbacks.
It can be hard to look at the town you’ve grown up in wanting to leave objectively. Are the problems you see really that big, or are they just misconstrued by teenage angst? What are the real problems? Greenwood has a lot of issues, many of which stem from an ingrained culture. These, of course, aren’t something easy to fix, but instead will take generations of conscious effort. You can’t eliminate racism or close-minded people with a the flick of a hand or even a grant. However, the physical problems within a town can be fixed with a grant.
In my town we are in need of prioritizing where are money goes and what updates take precedent. While our buildings aren’t falling to the ground or dissolving before our eyes, they are outdated. The public library is tucked away in the middle of a church campus and often forgotten about. The building dates back further than most of our parents can remember and lacks the proper space needed to be an asset to our community. The staff struggles to maintain an organized environment while still bringing in new books. They can’t get rid of the well-loved books, but they must also keep up with the times. There just isn’t enough room. It’s unorganized and doesn’t feel happy. The open-to-the-public computers are outdated and run slowly. It’s not a place kids can go to do homework, learn, or study.
Although seemingly off topic, our transportation problems go hand in hand with our public library problem. The lack of updates for both are directly due to our inability to address poverty within our town. While we live in a town with little to no crime and beautiful scenery, our sidewalks are few and far between. People are often seen walking down the side of busiest street in town to get where they need to go. Cars swerve to the middle lane to avoid those without a means of transportation other than walking: those that walk a well worn path not important enough to be made into an actual sidewalk. The idea that we acknowledge the downfalls of our town or the people that haven’t lived up to what we expect them to is unthinkable. Everybody wants to ignore the bad, the things that make us human.
Greenwood is well known around here. We are uptight and prideful, but we are also brilliant and successful. We have a reputation. This reputation was created through constantly striving to be better, but somewhere along the way the lines have been redefined. We can’t accept that there are people going through hardships because, that must mean our town isn’t as lucrative as we want everyone to know we are. We are one of the top rated schools in Arkansas because we have great test scores. So, what does that say? We have come to define education and learning as test grades and GPA. Learning has come to specifically mean what they teach us in school. There is no longer a gray area in which we each get to learn more about the things that interest us or bring joy. The library isn’t a place of learning, but instead an unthinkable place to pass our free time. We don’t dare darken the doorstep for fear of committing social suicide.
In a town this small, there aren’t many different cultures. We are deeply planted in our feelings and prejudices. We can’t acknowledge poverty because that means admitting we aren’t perfect. To reveal the lack of a fruitful library we hurt the pride of those who boast Greenwood’s biggest asset as the education system. It brings to light the paradox we have created by being one of the best education systems while lacking a respectable community library. If I were mayor these are the problems I would change. People tell me I dream too big and that this is just what it’s like to live in a small town, but I’m a firm believer in there always being room for improvement. An overwhelmingly good thing about this town is that it’s great at getting behind a cause, especially if it will make us look good. I would set up a fund raiser with the profile of further improving the education system in the town. The library could be spun as sense of pride in the town that would outdo all the other public libraries in the surrounding communities. The people of this town revel in being the best: best schools, best football team, biggest churches. The library would serve two purposes in this sense. We would then be able to add to our repertoire having the best library in the county and it would better our schools. I would also write a grant for town safety that would pay for new sidewalks in the town which would intern bring up our safety ratings.
Greenwood, Arkansas is a phenomenal place to grow up or raise a family. It’s safe and all the kids have a chance to become successful. The faults we have, though often ignored, are things we are capable of changing. With a little sense of community and a lot of town pride we could fix the physical problems and maybe start to solve some of the close minded prejudices. This is what I would aspire to do if I were mayor.