Back in October I sat in a meeting eating lunch with a handful of peers working in the same industry as me. As we talked conversation shifted from business to high school reunions. Someone in the group was approaching their ten year high school reunion and said they’d soon be going back to their hometown for the event. I was a bit surprised at how the tone of the conversation shifted as talk progressed on this topic.
The overwhelming theme of the chatter at the table regarding high school reunions was disdain toward their fellow classmates. It was as though everyone I was in company with for this lunch had all felt as though they were superior to their classmates. Why, you might ask? They all felt as though they were ‘better’ than their classmates still living in their hometown because they (by their own standards) had gone on to accomplish things and ‘become someone’ while everyone in their hometown was ‘stuck’ there spinning their wheels. Of course I was sitting at a table with peers in the entertainment industry so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised to hear this parade of arrogance around me.
Success. How exactly do we define success as a culture?
Is success based on clout, title, income, power and fame? It sure seemed as though my peers surrounding me felt that way. It was gross if you ask me. It was unbecoming and prideful. But mostly it was sad. Life is so, so much more than those things.
I couldn’t be more proud of the small town – and I mean 2,500 people small – I grew up in and of all the people that are still so-called, ‘stuck’ there. You know why? Those people aren’t actually ‘stuck’ there. Those people are actually the people that make the world go round. Those are the people that are in the trenches raising families, caring for one another and making a difference in the lives of people around them by the small things. But the small things, in all reality are really the big things. All those people back in my small hometown teach and show one another on a daily basis what it means to give to others and not expect anything in return. All of those people back home teach and show me the kind of person I want to be. They show me it’s not the things in life that are important, it’s the people.
My hometown is the kind of place where your next door neighbor will lend you eggs and milk when you’re baking and realize you forgot to purchase some of the ingredients but the store is already closed. It’s the kind of place where people gather around the dinner table in the evenings so they know what is going on in each other’s lives. It’s the kind of place where if your car slips off the icy road into the ditch, you’ll have five random strangers (who actually end up not being strangers since everyone knows everyone) stop and help do whatever they can to pull you out. It’s the kind of place where families spend time together – not because they have to, but because they want to. It’s the kind of place where doing the right thing matters and people aren’t afraid to hold you accountable to it.
No, I’m not blind. It’s not all butterflies and rainbows. But that is because people are human no matter where you go. If you think you’ve found the perfect place, go join it and it won’t be perfect anymore (as Matthew Kelly says). But, all in all, my small hometown in Ohio is amazing and it’s all because of the values and morals that are important to the families there.
If you want to change the world you have to start with first things first. Begin in your very own home. Better yet, begin in your very own heart. If you change your heart, you can change the world. If every person in the world worked toward changing their heart, imagine how much less hate there would be in the world.
If you are one of those people who thinks they are better than everyone in their hometown because you ‘got out’ I venture to guess you might need to spend some time reflecting on your life and the places you’ve been and the people that propelled you to get there.
I’m happy to live in Nashville, TN now because for some reason it’s where I’ve been guided to be at this point in my life. I’ve made a great life in Nashville and have met some really amazing people. But I am who I am and I’ve achieved the things I have been able to achieve in part, because of where I came from. I know how blessed I am to have grown up where I did surrounded by the people in St. Henry, OH.
This Christmas, I get to spend about a week in St. Henry and my heart is full. I love the people in this town. I love that families are important. I love that faith is important. I love that doing the right thing is important. I just love getting to spend time here with people I care about. It’s the way of life, it’s the culture here.
No matter where you are – big city or small town – focus on the things that really matter. Focus on the things that make a life and a home. The way the world measures success is toxic and temporary. You may receive short-term pleasure, but those things won’t bring you long-term joy. Go for joy! Each one of us deserves love and joy. That is the true meaning of success.
Laughs and Love,