Discovering the Benefits of Small Town Life

Having grown up in a city like Omaha, Nebraska, I don’t understand small-town living. When I hear the population sizes of some of RehabVisions’ rural locations, my reference point is my high school–we had 2,400 students in four grades. “That’s about the size of my high school or two of my high schools,” is what I’m thinking, and I try to imagine what life would be like.

I can sort of comprehend the knowing-everyone-in-the-grocery-store phenomenon as my neighborhood is pretty tight, and I feel like I know everyone sometimes. But having everything I need and know within a few miles is something of a mystery to me.

So I was really excited to talk to a friend, who graduated from that large high school with me and happened to become the COO of one of our rural hospital clients. Alison Bruckner helps to run Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic, Iowa (population 7,100). She moved with her family to Atlantic from Omaha just over a year ago.

There are 10 years between Alison’s first two kids and last three kids so she’s experienced child rearing in a large city and is now experiencing it in a smaller community. Her explanation of a typical day helped me to better understand the charm.

“I leave my house at 7:45 a.m., drop three kids at three different schools and am clocked in by 8 a.m.,” she said. “We’re also done with activities and eating at home by 6 p.m.” Because everything is in close proximity, kids are able to be involved in activities but Alison isn’t forced to shuttle them in three different directions miles apart.

Alison’s husband has teased her about becoming more domestic since their move. He said you never made the other kids’ lunches when they were in school, and she told him, “I didn’t have time.” She’s also cooking more and able to get the laundry done during the week.

And the family has more room than they did in Omaha. They were able to get a 4,000 square foot home for $150,000. That’s pretty unbelievable when you look at the bigger-city markets.

Alison, who’s obviously a go-getter, also ran for and won a school board position earlier this year. She’s clearly embraced her new home and way of life.

“I do miss Target and Starbucks,” she said. “But there’s just a community feel. At the hospital, we’re taking care of our neighbors.”

I can’t say I’ve ever been opposed to living in a small town. I’ve always romanticized a bucolic country life and dreamt about it for retirement maybe, but now I understand the draw for someone in the midst of one of life’s busier seasons, and it’s looking pretty desirable.

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