I live in the “city” now, but I will always be thankful for my small town roots. Growing up in a town like mine, you learn things that stick with you and become part of you. 

1. You learn to be creative. There was no mall. There was no movie theater. If you wanted to have fun, you had to make it. As a little kid, this was walking to the library, playing nighttime hide and seek (as long as you didn’t leave the yard after dark), and coming up with games like sock war with your brothers and sisters. I credit my ability to look at a pile of just about anything and come up with something fun to do to always have to think about finding fun. This is a handy skill for a mommy. 

2. You get to participate in just about everything. In doing that, you learn lessons. I was in so many activities from academics to athletics. I learned to work hard at each thing to develop a skill I sometimes did not know I had. I ran countless miles all around that small town pushing myself to the finish line. What I really learned that when it fell like my legs could go no more, I could dig down and find that spark that kept me from quitting. I shot millions of baskets in that school’s gym, but I really learned about being a team and grit that teaches you to not give up on yourself or that team. I learned to speak in front of others in costume and while interpreting beautiful poetry. I learned to be brave here. I learned to step out and be heard. 

3. Being kind to people matters. Manners matter. I had a very tough exterior growing up. I made sweet friends my freshman year while running all those miles who liked me for me, and because of them, I felt really accepted. That gave me permission to expect that people could be kind and accepting. From there I began to shake that exterior, and found a kindness underneath I thought was lost. 

4. It’s ok to be different. I went through most of life afraid to be different from everyone around me. The truth is, I always was. I was different in some of the best ways, but always trying to fit in made me realize that I was never meant to. I was afraid to really dive into my fullest potential in some ways. I was destined to blaze my own trail. I wish I had known and embraced that sooner. 

5. There are people who will love you like their own. I was fortunate to have family beyond blood. I was fortunate to have people who cared for me and invested in me. I could not begin to name all these people if I wanted to, but I can say I was uniquely blessed by a few. The McDonalds helped a lost kid find her way to Jesus. They tucked me into their family. The Schwertners supported and cheered me on with things like Blizzards on report card day and sharing dresses with me for the homecoming parade. I was in a community of kind people who loved me and were there when I graduated high school and college and had babies. It was that sense of community that will make me invest in the cities I live in. 

I am thankful for that small little town of Big Lake, Texas. It’s ever changing right now, but I still see it the way it was in my rear view on my way to move to ASU. I am thankful for the lessons I learned that led me to being a woman of great grit and determination. Determined and stubborn, like a true Texan. 

And yes, it is the town that was featured in the movie about a baseball coach, The Rookie.