When I launched Small Town Leadership in 2016, I didn’t expect to celebrate the 4th anniversary during a pandemic. Now that I’ve gotten over my initial week of shock, anger, fear (and trust me, these keep popping to the surface on a regular basis), I’m experiencing feelings of curiosity, opportunity, love and connection. The reason I’m feeling these things is that I see our world turning into a small town before my eyes.
How so? Generosity, agility, working within constraints, and connection are essential small town leadership lessons I learned growing up in Republic, Ohio (population 600). Here is how I see these showing up amidst the coronavirus pandemic:
Generosity – People are giving freely what they have to offer:As a child, I continually saw my parents give away both physical things (like an entire basement of furniture after a local family suffered a house fire) as well as their time because that’s what you do in a small town. Now, I can’t open my email, social media feed, or listen to the radio without someone offering something simply because they have the time, talent and treasure to do so. Free art classes, zoo tours, Broadway shows, workout videos, not to mention the outpouring of support for kids who rely on the free and reduced school lunch program and the small business community most affected by the shutdown. If you are looking for support or learning, you shouldn’t have to look very far for a free resource from a generous world full of people looking to support one another.
Agility – Who isn’t being asked to pivot on a dime right now? In a small town, I saw people move on a dime because circumstances demanded it. People were willing to take one hat off and immediately put on another one to serve the community. What we are seeing now is agility on the strongest, most potent dose of steroids imaginable. Think about everything you’ve been asked to build, create and modify over the past week. The capability to be agile will continue to serve you well beyond the pandemic.
Working within constraints: In a small town, you learn to work with what you have. I was forever rummaging in the basement for supplies for my next project, venturing in the woods for entertainment, and writing stories to keep myself entertained. You are likely figuring out how to run your business, educate your children, and feed your family within the constraints of a full-scale shutdown. You are figuring out how to marshal available resources to get things done.
Connection: In a small, rural town, we had to call our neighbors on the phone to connect. There were no cul-de-sacs or front porch parties. We could go days without seeing anyone, so we frequently called one another to share the latest news, ask for a favor, or simply check in. Now that we are supposed to stay at 2-arms length from everyone, the phone and computer are keeping us connected. Fortunately, with tools like Facetime, Zoom and Skype, this makes face-to-face connecting during a time of high stress and anxiety easier than in the pre-internet days, but it still takes a concerted effort to make it happen. I talked in depth about Connecting Virtually with my dear friend John Neral on a Facebook Live yesterday if you want to hear our take on the importance of connection right now.
I’m sure I will think of even more ways the big world feels like a small town as the next days and weeks unfold. For now, I’m grateful that:
- Instead of turning inward in this time of crisis, people are turning outward to connect with each other.
- The demands for us to be agile and work within our constraints will continue to serve us beyond the pandemic.
- We are turning our fear and frustration into generosity and service.
How are you experiencing the world as a small town right now? Reply and let me know and I’ll add them to my list.
From the archives: These three blog posts from the Small Town Leadership archives seem relevant right now.
What’s for supper? Many of you might be faced with meal planning for the first time. In this blog, I talk about the importance of supper time (including my definition of supper vs. dinner) and added a few of my family’s favorite recipes.
Craving simplicity in a complex world – It was normal to go to the grocery store every 2 weeks when I was growing up. This post can help you think about simpler times.
Staying fit in a small town – Is your gym closed? Yep, mine, too. Luckily, I had a basement and VHS tapes to keep me fit growing up in Republic. I’ve found my favorites on YouTube and linked them in this post.
May you stay safe, healthy and connected in the weeks to come!