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Donna Barker

Bragging on your hometown

A few weeks back, our daughter was facing a challenge while on the El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile walk across Spain. Her feet hurt, and she had blisters. But her El Camino-comrade was right there beside her, encouraging her with the words: “You can do this! Your mom is from Tiskilwa!” With that quick reminder about her heritage, my daughter knew she could finish the day’s walk just fine, after all she had Tiskilwa-blood running in her veins.

I was never quite so proud of my hometown.

I’m not so sure of the story’s entire background, but apparently our daughter and her traveling companions had talked about their upbringing and their homelands and the things that stood out to them. Apparently, my childhood stories of life in Tiskilwa had made an impression on my daughter. I know I’ve always been a bragger when it comes to Tiskilwa, boasting about its schools and teachers, about the hard work ethic and kindness I witnessed in its residents.

Knowing that this international bunch of young people were walking across Spain and talking about the merits of being from Tiskilwa, Illinois, United States of America … well, that’s something worth remembering.

For the last 38 years since I’ve been married, I have had a new hometown, Wyanet, which also gives me a sense of pride. There’s something to be said about knowing your neighbors and caring what happens to them, about following the local sports teams even after your kids graduate and supporting local businesses as much as possible. That’s what I’ve seen in Wyanet.

I remember when our daughters were in summer softball league and the teams would travel to neighboring towns for games. We had this one coach who was such a good encourager and motivator. He would often yell out to the girls “Show them where you’re from!” I loved that community-spirit kind of approach, and it worked. The girls would straighten up a bit taller, swing the bat a bit harder, stretch further for the balls. No matter how the game ended, we knew who we were, and we wanted to represent our town well.

There’s a lot to be said for community pride. We could probably all look at our hometowns and see things we’d like to change, but there’s also so many good things to appreciate about our communities.

In my mind, I think summer time is probably one of the best times of the year to see community spirit alive and well, with all the summer ball games, festivals, 5K runs and parades happening across Bureau County. And behind every single one of those events stands a group of people, no doubt exclusively volunteers, who have worked hours to make those ball games, festivals, 5K runs and parades happen.

And I can think of only twice when I stopped to say thank you.

So this can be my own little way of saying thank you to community leaders and non-leaders who work to make our communities a better place to live. Thank you to all the many residents who keep their yards mowed and who plant flowers, who care about their neighbors and look out for each other. That’s community.

Who knows, maybe some day there will be an international group of young people talking about your hometown as they walk across Spain.

BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at dbarker@bcrnews.com.