Walnut, Mississippi. A small town in the tiptop of the state. Only about 800 people make up the town. Several more live just outside the city limits, but are no less Walnutians than those 800. Most people don’t know where Walnut is when I’m asked where we’re from. If they’ve been through on their way to somewhere else, they usually say something like “well I’ve stopped for ice cream at that Burgers and Stuff there on Highway 72”. Or “you mean that one traffic light in the middle of nowhere?” That’s the one. We don’t have much shopping or very many restaurants. We’ve only got the one traffic light, and it hasn’t been there too awful long. We have one grocery store and right now only one (working) gas station. Over the years, I’ve heard people say some pretty mean things about our town. They like to make fun of our small school. (Although, percentage wise, we’ve turned out as many doctors, teachers, coaches, pharmacists, nurses, contractors, mechanics, engineers, entrepreneurs, etc as any other “big” school.) They laugh that there’s “nothing to do there”. But they’ve never been to a football game on a Friday night. Been at the park during summer league ball. They’ve never been to Fireworks on Main, or the Fall Festival. It’s kind of like siblings. Lindsey could say whatever she wanted about me, but if someone else said the same thing, well, I never had to doubt whether or not she would take up for me. We can talk about our town but you better watch out, we’ll come out swinging to defend our own.
So yeah, we’re small. But we have big hearts. We love. We pray. We fight for each other. We work. We do.
In the past few years, we’ve had several tragedies. Seems like we’ve had more than our share, but we’re not promised a easy life. And our people, well, they don’t ask for one. They just help whoever is hurting at the moment. I think we all know we could be next. But we don’t fear it. We know the One who said, “Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” And we know we live in one of the best places. I’ve watched our people, my people, come together to do the work we are called to do. To show His love to our community and to the world. To raise money to find cures with 5k races and t-shirt sales. To put on benefits to help those battling cancer or rebuilding after devastating tornadoes. To show support to our law enforcement and fire departments. To pray and comfort those who’ve lost loved ones.
And to remember them.
We honor those who’ve gone on to receive their reward. Sometimes it’s big, with beautiful lanterns that light up the sky. Sometimes it’s a card. Or flowers. Or just a message that says I’m thinking about you. Sometimes it’s a dedicated jersey, decals on football helmets, ribbons on businesses in town, painted parking spots. It’s a scholarship named after them. Or an old classmate of your daddy’s that stops to tell you a story about him. We make their old recipes at Thanksgiving. Sing their favorite songs on Sunday. We keep their memory alive for ourselves and for their families because we know that pain.
In this town, this small southern town, we care. When we ask how your family is, we genuinely want to know how they are. When we say to let us know if you need us. We mean it. And we’d be mad if you didn’t.
I’m so thankful for this town. I’m thankful Mama and Daddy chose to stay here. I’m thankful we came home. I hope my boys will do the same. Sure there are other good places in the world. We’ve lived in some of them. And I’m thankful for our time away, because I was able to make some lifelong friends that I will always cherish. But no one will welcome you back like this town. So if you’ve been away for a while, come home. Even if it’s just for a visit. If you’ve never been, there’s a football game this Friday night at 7pm just off the highway on Gary Boyd Pass. See you there!
***Update: That fancy new gas station is up and running now! I wrote this blog over a month ago, but after a friend shared a great blog on the same subject, I didn’t publish mine.