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Heifer Village (or, Changing the face of Arkansas)

March 1, 2010

So here’s what I get from people when I say I’m from Arkansas.

Good Ol Bill.

Oh dear.  And then there’s my favorite:

Kind of painful, isn’t it?

Imagine having to deal with that association, and never EVER being taken seriously as an intellectual, as a woman, as a human being.  Everyone wants to leave home at some point in their lives, to break out beyond the lives that you’ve already led.  But trust me… you have no idea.One of the biggest booming businesses in my little hometown when I left was… you guessed it… a Dixie Outfitters store.

But, just like any other, this stereotype represents a small amount of reality blown way out of proportion and called Truth.

Because that’s not the whole story.  That’s not the Arkansas I know.

“Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” Oh, Willy Wonka.

Pretty, isn’t it?  That’s my backyard.

Yes, there are closed minded people in this state.

There are people who parrot whatever is fed to them and call it a “political view.”

There are people who think that overalls are an outfit all unto themselves.

There are even people who honestly believe that the South will rise again.

But aren’t there people like that everywhere?  I know plenty of wonderful, insightful people who happen to have a southern accent, and I know even more people who speak properly and yet anger me to the point of madness with their idiocies and prejudices.

Do you know why?  Because people are more than what they appear. And so is Arkansas.

So here’s the hope that I have for this state:

This was the birthday cake my mom made for me when I turned 20. Yes, I said 20.

My friend and I went on a horseback riding adventure recently. My horse was way cooler.

In a way, we are just like everyone else.  We have quirky families and friends and hobbies, and we make what we have as amazing as we possibly can.

But here is my favorite part:

Heifer Village.

I volunteer there on the weekends, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I went to another training session this Saturday and met some amazing people, the kind that shatter stereotypes that isolate and choose instead to build bridges of communication and understanding.

The Heifer project was started by a man who wanted a common sense solution to poverty, one that helped people learn how to help themselves.  This is not your typical charity.  Instead of giving them money, or food, they help them realize the solutions they have created for themselves.  They don’t send westerners there, they employ people who are directly affected by the need in the area.

Imagine that… making an investment in a community of farmers or beekeepers or any kind of small business you can think of… and instead of carrying them, letting them lean on you until they can walk for themselves.

Pretty amazing, right?  I thought so too.

The fact that a helpful, common sense organization like this, a colorful, welcoming place like this could be in Arkansas… gives me hope.  So,

Please. For all our sakes.

We are more than the assumptions the world makes of us.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Penny permalink
    March 1, 2010 3:45 am

    I so feel your pain. I live in Oklahoma. Arkansas and Oklahoma are sister states in the way of hillbillies and close-minded people. And weather.
    We are riding in the same boat, babe. 🙂
    The former mayor of my town wore overalls to work everyday.
    The current mayor is a funeral home director. And a preacher.
    Mayor, preacher, embalmer.
    My town is a one-stop shop. 🙂

  2. March 11, 2010 5:42 pm

    Haha! I’m sorry it took me so long to comment on this, rough week and all.

    I totally understand! One of our preachers is also a lumberjack. I’m not kidding.

    If you want a great book to try, read The Art of Racing in the Rain, it’s about a Nascar driver and his dog (from the dog’s perspective, so cute!) fighting to get his daughter back after his wife dies. It’s so touching and adorable! Thought you’d like it.

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