The following column is a bit of an extension of last week’s looking for the good.
Wetumpka, Ala., has a population of little over 6,000 and is nestled against the Coosa River. On Jan. 19, 2019, a tornado swept through town and destroyed numerous buildings and 35 homes. That’s significant considering how small the town is to begin with.
HGTV and Ben and Erin Napier, of “Home Town Takeover,” chose Wetumpka out of 500,000 videos and 2,600 towns as the place that could really use some help in rebuilding.
“You never know what to expect, but right when I got to town, it was so pretty,” said Carissa Sison, line producer for the show. “Our offices had the Coosa River right behind them, and it was such a tranquil setting. But the best thing was the people. They were so happy to meet us. I’ve never experienced that kind of friendliness in my life and definitely not in my career.”
In watching the show, the smiles, the eagerness to work as a community, the friendliness and the joy of the residents radiated through my TV screen. So much so, I found moisture forming in my eyes that must have been allergies. I loved what I was watching, not only because of the rebuilding, but because of the beauty of witnessing real Americans, in a real small town, caring about each other, and so obviously working as a team to make things better.
With no politics, cries of racism, mask debates and no media intervention, it was a display of what and who we really are as a nation.
In some respects, it was like another world in another time where what really matters is living and enjoying life and doing so with your family and neighbors.
I’m not saying there likely isn’t any strife. It’s human nature to have differences of opinion and arguments over something or another. However, the compost and hate that floods our papers, Internet, and television were absent and thus exhibiting the real goodness of people.
There are thousands of these small towns across America as noted above. Towns where everyone works as a team. Towns that aren’t influenced with the constant bombarding of how racist everyone is and how political everything has become. The communities care about each other. They join forces to help families in need, they work as one to fix their churches, to repair a building, to help with the crops.
It almost seems surreal to be able to live in such a world considering how divided and how overall messed up our country has become. These communities are like bubbles unto themselves. They’re aware of the politics outside their bubble (it’s not a bubble of ignorance), but their daily lives are focused on interests closer to home.
Black and white hands work side by side. They’re all friends. They don’t need the wedge of the media being driven into them or the tainting of a “woke” movement trying to change who they are.
They are Americans, pure and simple. The foundation, the backbone, the heart of the United States.
Ben Napier said, “Because small town America is where we live and work and raise our family. It’s the flavor of this country.”
When you can get nearly an entire town to join together to paint all their front doors a different color and love doing it, there’s a bonding that the new socialist crusade in America can’t penetrate.
If we were all to turn off the news, ignore the animosity on the internet and wave and speak more with our neighbors about mundane things like the weather, or what restaurants have reopened, our views and perspectives would change dramatically. Our heads wouldn’t be filled with so much negativity and strife. Our stress levels would drop dramatically, and smiles would become more permanent and genuine.
But there’s always a but, in this new era of where the fabric of towns like Wetumpka are being threatened because there’s a movement to change these successful foundations and make America something different, we can’t let our guards down. We need to be vigilant, and we need to push back against those who want to change what made us who we are in the first place.
As shooting moved ahead, those feelings grew deeper and got more meaningful.
“We ended up with real friendships,” said Kerrigan, the show’s executive producer. “On our last day of shooting, our director of photography looked over at me and had tears in his eyes. I had tears in mine. We don’t normally cry on the last day.”
There is still hope.