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The International Writers Magazine: Life in the Prairies

Small Town Crap Part Two
Rosalea Hostetler

Getting Established for Acceptance

So you’ve followed the suggestions in Part l of Small Crap, and have made the decision that you really are up to living in a small town. You are willing to take the risk of being rejected, and don’t mind if you are shunned and isolated. Or you are confident you can play by the rules well enough to fit in and be accepted. What’s next?

Rosalea Hostetler

Who you learn from the very beginning is critical to your future in a small town. It is helpful if you have relatives with acceptable reputations in the community to help you integrate without pain, but lacking that, where do you begin?
First, your real estate agent may be a good starting point even though many of them are liars and will do anything, even illegal, to get a sale as life is hard for them where population is sparse. Even though Kansas has a stringent real estate commission that monitors the ethics of agents, they can’t possibly stay on top of everything. (At least you can turn in an agent who treats you illegally.)

An agent can direct you to churches, business owners, clubs, bars and organizations, but unless you enjoy mingling with questionable ethics, you’d be wise to not socialize with an agent until you have lived there awhile to know which ones are honorable. An agent is only using you for her next sale when you can’t tolerate small town life any more and put your house back on the market. (It is not uncommon for many outsiders to put their house up for sale within the first year!)
A church is always a semi-safe place to begin making contacts as most will offer a warm welcome, albeit superficial, when you arrive. Small Kansas and Oklahoma towns seem to proliferate with churches, often offshoots of one another as there is always someone wanting the "perfect" doctrine, the "perfect" order of service, the "perfect" worshipers, etc. It is also a way for women to have a voice of their own--start a home church. Anyone can do it.

A church may even be the same denomination, on different sides of town, but are bitter enemies, with feuds going back several generations. Don’t make the faux pas of assuming they are friends and associates just because they bear the same denominational name. So be very cautious how you proceed in that landmine of "better than thou’s".
Determine ahead of time what you seek in a church, and this will help you ferret out the one that is the best fit for you. Do you want something formal and distant? Charismatic and loose? Lots of structure? No structure? Literal interpretation of the Bible? Personal interpretation of the Bible?

Do you want to improve your social status, then go where the "high powered" people attend. Perhaps you want an active youth group or Sunday School for your children. Or you might like small, intimate back to the Bible self-ordained preacher churches. Also notice what the people wear, and that may help you make a determination of where you belong. It is highly unlikely that you will find anything other than Christian houses of worship, except for clandestine witchery or other sub-cultural religious practices that are kept extremely quiet.

If none of the churches seem to fit what you seek, and you simply want to worship a higher power in your own way, then avoid the churches all together and find scenic drives for your worship experience. There is an abundance of natural beauty on the prairies for this.

After settling on a church, the next step is to find a banker. All banks are not created equal. Again, you need to consider what you want from a bank. Do you want an advisor, someone to make loans, or simply a place to park you money? Also, interest rates vary from bank to bank, so if making a few extra dollars on your investments is critical, shop them all and compare, or turn to the Internet.

Be wary, some banks won’t assist you with loans if you are not a locally born native, no matter how great your credit rating. Others encourage new business. Ask business owners and folks at the coffee shops for recommendations. It won’t take long and you will have an overview of the banking situation, and will be able to find the one that best suits your needs. In fact, the bank might even be located in another nearby town. Or you may elect to have two different banks, so you have some leverage in the event you need some assistance.

With the right church and the right bank, you are set to become a model prairie citizen and hopefully embraced by the natives wary of the "new folks in town."

© Rosalea Hostetler March 2008

Small Town Crap part One

Small Town Crap Part Three
April 2008

Previously published in the Prairie Connection, Harper, KS

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