Keokuk. What comes to mind? Barren, Old, Boring, Limited, Meth,Dirty, Blue Collar, Bars, Clicky? You said it not me. Yes, you. Let’s get something straight, there is nothing more exasperating than being around people who wrap something up in a box and call it crap indefinitely. Not sure what I mean? I mean the people who constantly complain about Keokuk (and small towns alike) but make no effort to preserve it’s historic and present value. It’s the people who never have time to support community events, fundraisers, or volunteer efforts unless they see an immediate benefit or interest. If there is nothing to do here, what are you so busy with? And don’t tell me it’s because you don’t have $10 to spare because you’ll be at the Bar or Wal-Mart spending it this weekend. I don’t care if you think it’s stupid, old fashioned, or just another play at the Grand Theatre, go. This isn’t about being patronizing it’s about being clear; you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
For instance, yesterday Keokuk held it’s annual “Tour of Homes”. It just so happens my parents loft apartment was on the list this year. However, my grandmother really wanted to see the other homes, and why not? So we paid $20 and strolled around. Now, I’ll be honest it is not what I would have chosen to do on a Saturday afternoon. It just isn’t, and that is okay. What isn’t okay is to not acknoweldge that families opened their homes, 200 plus individuals in the community participated, and all proceeds went to supporting an effort for Keokuk Area Hospital. There is a cycle here. Support fundraiser(s) > Revitalize Community Socialization/ Relationship/ Networking >Help Area Hospital > Stabilize Hospital programs> Strengthens Employment Opportunity> Create Opportunity for Economic Growth. Think it sounds far fetched? It really isn’t. You have to be able to take the first step which is to support before you can reach the final steps of stabilizing and strengthening. This is just one small fundraiser of many that happen yearly, and, it is likely more would occur if those small efforts were to gain traction.
In a contiuation of this discussion let’s go ahead and cover the following statement we’re all too familar with: “I just need to get out of this town.” Guess who has said that many times? Me. Furthermore, I would be putting up a front if I said I don’t still feel that way at times. In fact, do not think for a minute I am claiming to be “pillar” in our community. I’m not, but I have made a decision to change my attitude about this community. My Keokuk is full of countless memories, relationships, experiences, and traditions. The truth is you do need to get out of Keokuk. Save your money, travel, find a way to get away for a bit. As someone who has had the priviledge of visiting 32 states and 7 countries at the ripe age of 24 I assure you it is worth it. I have experienced everything from the fast paced life of Tokyo to huts in the countryside of Bulgaria. I have taken a bike down mountains in Canada, and rode horses down rural beaches in Mexico. I lived somewhere throughout college for 5 years and enjoyed it. Yet it remains indisputable that whether I was on the otherside of the world or hours away I have always been happy to come home. If you need to leave, or want to leave, leave; but don’t trash Keokuk all the way to your next destination. You shouldn’t trash the place that raised you even if you think it didn’t raise you right; and certainly, you shouldn’t trash your home if you are still trying to live in it.
So, if you are going to be here, don’t be “one of those” people. It is so easy to gossip shortcomings of the town, just don’t be that easy. Just because you are of a certain opinion doesn’t mean someone behind the scenes isn’t working tirelessly to change it. There are a handful of individuals who work tirelessly to build a better Keokuk, and yes, I absolutely think my Father is one of them. He would be to humble to admit how much that actually is, but if you’re reading this you probably already know who they are. It’s time to stop fixating on what Keokuk was, or could be, and start supporting our community right where it is.
There are many benefits of living in a small town like Keokuk you take for granted once you’ve hit the big city. From the smallest of offerings such as familiar faces while you shop, to low cost of living, bank workers who know you by name, hair stylist who love you as a “regular”, Churches who give kids a safe place to have fun after High School football games, the YMCA a town our size is lucky to have (even if you think it’s outdated), a beautiful Rand Park, and updated School Facilities.There is always a way to make foster growth. America is made up primarily of small towns. The communities that thrive are the ones who are valued. So, support your community, and your community will support you.