Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 3, 2013

One of us

Nathan Harter
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Many years ago, I complained bitterly that some residents believe that people who move to town on their own are somehow less deserving of political office.

Candidates rise at the dais and declare, “I’ve lived here my whole life” – as though that matters.

At the time, I objected to the clannishness of such a mindset, as though outsiders have less to offer, when in fact they bring fresh perspectives and much-needed gifts. Is there really so much home-grown leadership that we can ignore the newcomers?

At my worst, I used humor. For example, you heard the one about the candidate for Parliament in the northlands concluding a speech by saying loudly, “I was born an Englishman. I have lived an Englishman. And I’ll die an Englishman.” To which some rascal in the back said, “Have ye no ambition, man?”

Times come and go. The sting of being kept at arm’s length reminded me of something my father once said. He grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania. “You may never be regarded as a native,” he advised, “but your kids will be accepted as one of them.” That seems to be the case here.

My readers have graciously allowed me to grouse and preach and hector for over ten years on these pages. For which, thank you. And my wife’s closest friends are still there, even though we moved away two years ago. More importantly, my children call Greensburg home.

Who knows where the Army will send my second child. He is on a course only God can foresee. But when he comes back on leave, people will know him. He will circle up with his old buddies around the fire. I’d like to think he once inspired several young men to reach the semi-state, as he had, and finally bust on through. Which they did this year.

My daughter had to come with us to start school in Virginia, but she stays in close contact with several Hoosiers, including her absolutely closest friend still. They spend literally hours on the phone or online. When she and I talk about returning for a visit, we say we’re going home.

My oldest has other ties to the community. If the job market had been kinder, I do not doubt he would have wanted to stay and build his practice, but times being what they are, he just might have to make do elsewhere. Even so, no matter what transpires, he will come back around frequently.

There is a new book coming out by Rod Dreher titled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life (Grand Central Publishing). I heard the author describe the message of the book last June, and he argued that there is something intangible, something powerful about the small town as home. So he picked up and moved back to rural Mississippi after vowing years ago to leave forever.

Community is a process, wrote Mary Parker Follett. It interweaves, it interknits, it slowly binds you together. It may take a generation, but eventually folks will say you’re one of us. I have faith on behalf of my children that they will always be welcome there in your midst. One of them may even rise at the dais one day and say with pride, “I was raised here….”  

And so I get it. You can say that, if you are simply exhibiting pride. That’s only right.