If you have never been to rural, small town USA, then I encourage you to go. And I am not talking about New Orleans, Nashville, or Atlanta. I am talking about places like Malvern, Arkansas. Where the biggest store is Walmart, strips of businesses are boarded up, there's no public transportation, original railroad tracks lay, and where segregation still exists.
Growing up in a New Jersey suburb should be considered growing up in the city. I remember when I first met my now husband and we were telling each other where we grew up and our personal stories. I will never forget telling him I am from a suburb in New Jersey and he immediately called me a "city girl." I kept trying to explain to him that it is nothing like a city at all and blah blah blah. But as we have grown up together, I have been fortunate enough to visit his family in Arkansas and see how he grew up through the lives of his younger cousins and nephews. And I am convinced I am a city girl.
There is this interesting aura I feel whenever I visit my husband's family in Arkansas. It is a cross between simplicity and rooted history that feels forgotten. I truly believe that small, rural towns in the United States have been forgotten. Especially ones in the south, where neighborhood streets are named after slaveowners and residents bear those same last names.
I can't help but feel that a lot of America is like Malvern. Where the only jobs are working at the brick company or Walmart. Where 30% of the population lives in poverty. Where the education and healthcare system fail the community. Where untapped potential lies. Where the people deserve more than they could ever imagine if they are just given an opportunity. Where the positivity and hope to continue on is nothing like I have ever witnessed before. Where the people are full of love and welcome you into their home with open arms. Where the belief of being alive is enough of a blessing. Where history was created and where the people who are living there today laid the foundation of our country. Where the people are ultimately forgotten by the rest of their country.