Hope of the rural community

To the Editor:

The annual Fourth of July parade is over. Vendors pull out. Visiting family and friends ebb away and return to their homes. The town goes back to normal — being quiet. We hear the news that most of America’s rural communities are doomed to decline. We hear that rural life is fading away. We hear that rural older adults as well as younger ones are hit hard by opioid epidemic. When hope seems lost, where do we find hope in the rural community?

Recently, I had a chance to visit my family in South Korea after nine years. To my surprise, I had reverse culture shock. One of them was differences between urban and rural. I grew up in a fairly large city — one of the satellite cities of Seoul where about a million people lived. After visiting my hometown, I became more appreciative of living in the rural community. More importantly, I began to see a ray of hope here.

I would dare to say that rural communities are “blue oceans.” Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of opportunities and possibilities in the rural community if we are willing to offer. In the urban areas, in almost every area of life only the best of the best is encouraged to offer their talents and participate. And basically the rest of us have to wait for our turn in a very competitive atmosphere. Unlike the urban areas, everyone is encouraged to offer whatever skills we have in the rural ones. We celebrate life.

In the rural community everyone matters — young and old, men and women. Shortly after my family and I moved up to Houlton in 2014, I saw a photo of one of my children participating in the local library activities in the paper and was very surprised. My child was in the newspaper! It could hardly ever happen in a larger city area where I had come from.

As its slogan says, “The only newspaper in the world interested in Houlton, ME,” here we really can see what’s happening from our school activities, sports events, birth and death, to even this week’s police log! As a rural community member, we feel included. We feel valued.

My point is not that one is better than the other. The point is that our rural community can bring a cure for those desperate for a sense of community in this time of anonymity. It may be harder to find a job or mate here, but we can learn the more important things in life, such as good family values and work ethics, in our rural community. As you see, I am an eternal optimist about the rural community. And I will continue to call Houlton “Blue Ocean.”

Pastor Victor Han

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