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Before You Call Us Simple Minded

Last week, The St. Louis Post Dispatch ignorantly labeled anyone outside of St. Louis County “simple minded.” As someone who grew up in a three stoplight town where “I was stuck behind a tractor” was an acceptable reason to be late to school, I was angered by the fact that the simplicity of our towns can be a predisposition for idiocy and naïvety.

I prayed for a week asking the Lord if I should write something (no one needs to know the ugly depths of my soul when I am immediately angered). After a week of thinking, I cannot remain silent. It would be a disservice to my community if I were to press delete and never share these thoughts. Their voices deserve to be heard. The real and honest truth about the beauty of small towns needs to be shouted for all to know.

This is the place where my business was born and dozens of people showed up at a sweltering park to support my dreams.

When I was 16, I began to realize the black and white world I built for myself couldn’t reconcile with the truths of life. My seemingly perfect Mayberry wasn’t simple in any way, shape, or form.

Simple minded people would see things in black and white. But I quickly learned that bad people did good and good people did bad. People I held in high regards made big mistakes and hurt people with their words and actions. The people who spoke on stages, preached from pulpits, and screamed from sidelines couldn’t measure up to the mark of perfection I held them to. Mistake after mistake proved their humanness. Then the people who became a third party in decade long marriages were baptized with holy water. Hell froze over and the addicts, the abusive parents, and the thieves made their wrongs right and began doing good. They held steady jobs, reared their children up, and rang cowbells on Friday nights.

Simple minded people wouldn’t be able to cope with tragedies in the way my community has. When senseless acts of selfishness stole the dreams of families, there was united battle cries for justice and restoration of broken pieces. We knew that casseroles and condolences couldn’t bring back the dead. We knew that money could only fix momentary afflictions. We knew that a memorial would fade with time. But we knew that love could creep into empty pieces and bring new life and beauty from ashes.

Simple minded people would believe poverty could be solved with a job and a pair of Nike’s. I quickly learned that poverty was generational and it was so hard to break the cycle. I wanted to help and give until my knees were weary, but I learned that being a generous Christian can resemble enabling. I balanced that act of not giving enough and giving too much until I realized that God would never hold being too generous against me as a sin.

Simple minded people wouldn’t go on to be world changers. They would be content with the status quo and unwilling to innovate. Simple minded people from small town USA wouldn’t become Olympians, musicians, agriculturalists, politicians, and business owners who are focused on bettering those around them. These people look to serve others because they know they wouldn't be where they are today if others hadn't helped them along the way.

Next time you want to mislabel us as “simple minded,” I suggest you take a trip down Highway 54 to this three stoplight town where cars stop for tractors, the stadium is seatless on a Friday night, and Walmart closes at ten. I suggest you meet with the teachers who pour their heart into their students, the couples who moved home to raise their babies, and the business owners determined to make a difference. I suggest you stop at the Cree Mee and try a world famous Marshmallow Pepsi, go off course and see the faint marks of old railroad tracks, and drive the gravel roads of beautiful Missouri farmland. I suggest you get to know us before you judge us.

Quirky angles capture the essence of some of the most historic and unique parts of my hometown. The old high school gymnasium, downtown detail, and depot remains reveal the history and longevity of this precious place.


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