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Exchange Programs for Americans

February 25, 2015

I was reading an article about the best (and worst) places to live – determining factors was income, college degrees, obesity rates. A part of a comment in the comment section had an idea that folks could do voluntarily, if serious about understanding.

“I think we need exchange programs in this country to allow Americans to learn more about each other.”

Many from rural areas go to the city for business. How many don’t understand those flyover states, why people rebuild after tornadoes, why we live in such a dangerous area? It was expressed in Jason Aldean’s hit song as well.

“Miles and miles of backroads and highways connecting little towns with funny names…Who’d wanna live down there…in the middle of nowhere?” Maybe if some from the cities actually visited there would be a different perception. A communication rather than hurling insults at those faceless folks that don’t exist or aren’t real because they’re on the other side of a keyboard.

It’s easy to think that without cities America wouldn’t move. It certainly would change much.

“Take a ride across the Badlands…feel that freedom on your face, breathe in all that open space…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow about planting someone from New York City or San Diego in Double Springs, Alabama or Neponset, Illinois or Calhan, Colorado? Maybe Afton, Oklahoma or a host of other little towns with funny names. It’s easy to see the negative.

Go from running to the corner store for coffee to a half hour or an hour to town for supplies. Those vegan restaurants? Pack your own vegan lunch because there’s not enough demand for it here. What if your only vegetarian selections was at McDonald’s or Burger King…or home. Shocking. No fancy nightlife. After 9 on a weekend it’s create your own entertainment, and don’t think you aren’t being watched because you are. New people get attention, whether overt or not.

Remember the number of times those folks in areas like this were called stupid, ignorant, uneducated? How does one manage without all the services of cities? Just run to Starbucks or Whole Foods or Trader Joes and it’ll feel normal. Oh wait. There isn’t one here. Not just an extra block or two. There isn’t one.

Want to find out the town talk? Try the local sale barn or small town cafe. If there’s a local paper you’ll find events coming up. Bored? Rural teens learn to not say they’re bored because they’ll be handed something fun to do. Probably not fun for them but reduces boredom. Connor found there’s ALWAYS barn cleaning that can be done for boredom breaking. Watching the critters eat is the rural version of people watching at WalMart.

Geothermal heat/cooled. Water recaptured filtered to 2,000 gallon cistern. Construction 1890.

Geothermal heat/cooled. Water recaptured filtered to 2,000 gallon cistern. Construction 1890.

Have you ever been through Indiana? Missouri? Arkansas? What do you know about Alabama besides football and NASCAR? Do you know just off a little road connecting little towns with funny names in Illinois there is the solution for many environmental issues with an off the grid, water recycling, alternative powered home that was instituted in – hold onto your handbag city folks – 1890! Decades before Rural Electric came to the rural areas he had wind powered equipment and ventilation. Hot water in a shower with no electricity? How is it that with all the modern technology today and modern studies this is seen as impossible?

Step into Bishop Hill or any number of barely a map dot towns and see what it’s REALLY like to do without modern conveniences. You know on any nonGMO or organic or, increasingly, farm forum there are those YELLING we should return to how it used to be. Are they willing to come visit an area that lives it? Come on to the flyover states folks. You won’t have to worry about sleeping pills or a gym because when you get up at 6 – or earlier on dairy farms! – and work all day by 10-11 pm when some are just going out in the cities you, too, are ready for bed.

Get the joys of shoveling snow, dealing with ice, dealing with roaming dogs and often messy homes – just clear off the table when you sit down. Don’t bother when folks talk about necropsy of the heifer that died or AI’ing those that need bred tomorrow, or collecting the stallion. What’s that? That’s part of the education! It’s not city table conversation for sure.

Chances are there won’t be gang driveby shootings, and if you want drugs you might not want to deal with the consequences. So why do we like these roll up the sidewalks places?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jason Aldean sang – open spaces. We can have a bigger dog than 20 pounds. A garden without contacting a homeowner’s association for approval. You can actually see the stars when it’s dark, and fireflies flickering across a meadow. The kids can play outside and learn from skinned knees and bruises. People often have weapons and are secure without ADT in their homes.

Along with the unprocessed food you can find unprocessed people who will tell you straight what they think, good bad and otherwise. They might have appliances that are new or that have been in place for 15-20 years, and there’s probably things in the attic or shop that would qualify for antique status. You may not have reliable cell service but you’ll have real time communication and an experience that goes beyond video clips and 5-10 second shots.

You’ll smell a freshly bedded barn after it’s been cleaned, and hear the sounds of contented animals eating dinner after what sometimes is a chaotic feeding time. Peaceful. Quiet. Genuine laughter around a meal and getting to know people.

You won’t see that in an airplane at 30,000 feet. You won’t see it on YouTube. You can’t experience it from where you are. An exchange program to spend a month or two there can bring a whole new level of understanding. It seems to be needed. Break down the miscommunication and experience the reality.

Then look again at those comments of ignorant. Uneducated. Backwards. Perspective makes a difference.




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