A man aged about 45 years old was on a geography induced tirade. A nice guy but seemingly uneducated on the mere locations of his own country. He was physically shocked at how close my hometown of Evansville, Indiana was to Nashville, Tennessee. “I thought everyone just wanted to go to Chicago,” he asked. When I told him about the other cities near my hometown, he flew into an eyebrow raising conversation. For fun, I told him the truth that I have never even visited Chicago! Hell, I had only just visited Indianapolis for the first time last year!
His roots are from Southern California and Arizona so to him, the Midwest is just a vast space of cattle grazing acreage. I’m not implying stereotypical phrases because that is exactly what he said. He went on to ask me if I had ever milked a cow and what my involvement in the 4H was. I replied no to all the above although I was in 4H for about three months. Not nearly enough time to count and in my defense I did it to submit writing projects, ok? I’m no cartographer but I can sing you the famed song, Fifty Nifty United States and I can identify 95% of U.S. soil. Pair this occurrence with the ridiculous, recent confusion between the Czech Republic and Chechnya in the media and I’m in a geographic related, head shaking predicament.
Without getting into an education related debate about American school systems not providing the correct and more relevant subjects; perhaps geo-literacy starts somewhere within ourselves. Naturally, our school system could place more emphasis on certain topics that relate to the world and not just our own country. Of course this does not encompass every single school. I’m sure there are institutions who have renowned programs that emphasize on world literacy, probably. And on the student’s side, perhaps a kid just doesn’t care enough about the placement of Armenia when they’re sitting in a 7th grade classroom? While we can’t force our students to learn about every single country around the world, we can at least teach them to be stewards of their own geographical location.
Have A Little Pride
Being raised in one of the best areas to grow up, the Midwest, I was constantly surrounded by seemingly proud folks but also by those who resented it. In my hometown, high levels of resentment lurked around every stoplight. Depending on your family, you either loved your city or hated it yet never drafted exit strategies to leave it. For many years, I too resented my hometown. It’s hard to compare a small town in Indiana to a mega city like New York City.
But as I grew up and continue to do so, I realized that much like people, cities cannot be compared to each other. There are a million little things that create the success and pride in every city all around the world. It’s simply not fair to constantly compare. The more I move around in this world, the more I see how much really lies between latitude and longitude. Certain areas have a very prideful community (I’m looking at you BOSTON) while others seem to resent everything that happens in their state.
We need to be aware of our neighbors to the North, South, East, and West. As citizens of this country, we should at least know where the states reside. For extra points, let’s go ahead and educate ourselves on other countries too. I’ve met a shockingly amount of adults who think Madagascar is just a Disney movie. You’re never too old to do a little research. Just Google a few countries that you’ve always wondered about and see where they actually are. Learn a few cities from that country and educate yourself before you publicly tweet incorrect information that damns an entire country! But if that’s too much effort, be a steward of your hometown and current town wherever you are.
Do not be ashamed when someone from the West Coast uses a high level of inflection at the end of “IndianAAAA?” There was a time when I sheepishly responded to questions about my hometown. I’d suck in a bit of air and say things like, “Yep….Indiana.” Now I’m learning to be prideful of where I came from. If it were not for my Indiana upbringing, I would not be the woman I am today. Everyone can attribute their roots to the person they developed into. Sometimes it may be the accumulation of various cities or states or perhaps it’s just one city. Being a steward for Indiana never ends for me and I find it exciting. I am constantly educating people about where I came from and it warms my heart a little more every time. Of course you may be asking, “Demi, why did you leave your beloved Indiana and move to the West Coast?”
Because loving where you come from does not mean you must stay there forever. It does not matter how far you travel or where you ultimately drop your anchor in life. You will always carry a little dirt from your hometown, no matter how large or small it may be. Every mile you travel, you bring those parts of you along for the ride. After all, your hometown is where your journey began in the first place.