From the piles of dirt I sweep off my kitchen floor at the end of the day, to the smiles of my neighbors that wave as I pass their houses on my way home from work every day, everything is big. It’s a big, warm, welcoming state that I’ve called home since 2004. And, Arkansas’ beauty is biggest of all.
Perhaps it’s because small children find solace and comfort in their immediate environment that causes some to forget to notice the amazingly beautiful as an adult. It’s nothing unusual to see the hawks flying, hear the peepers and the birds and watch everything become a lush green in March. It doesn’t matter that skin is tanned and healthy, that ticks and chiggers dig in, or that the flowers sold in shops don’t even compare to the wild flowers covering the landscape in beauty. Perhaps the infinite beauty of this state is what is in the hearts of the genuinely caring and giving folks that were blessed to be born here in Arkansas.
I’ve seen it time and time again. A few years ago, a tornado ripped through Carlisle, tearing a path directly through the center of town, leaving behind destruction of a kind I had never seen before (photo). The town’s mayor and city council, the volunteer firemen and the town’s police, every citizen of the town never stopped until they knew everyone was safe, and never slept until everyone was fed and electricity was restored.
Last Christmas, a flood enveloped a subdivision in Beebe. Leading the search and rescue was the city’s mayor, going from door to door in a boat to get everyone’s feet safely on land again. Still today, the mayor is wading through the red tape of federal regulations and policies to find aid for the owners of those flooded homes, some a complete loss.
A few months ago, the little town of Center Hill was just about completely devastated by a spring tornado. Telephone poles stood awry with no wires attached, concrete slabs laid bare on the ground that used to be the foundation of homes, piles of rubble replaced the buildings of two of the three that are the fire department, and massive tree roots pock the landscape of the quiet bump in the road that was the town. A great majority of the cars traveling Rt. 36 stopped to ask if they could help. Some brought chain saws, some baked goods and bottled water, and neighbors helped neighbors sift through the devastation to salvage what they could. A sprained ankle and a bump on the head were the only injuries because everyone made sure that everyone was safe.
A sweet, elderly lady runs the local Literacy Council, reaching out to teach adults how to read and offers English as a Second Language classes at a church on the other side of town. Funding ran out long ago, but she continues to teach and run the book store out of dedication and belief in the program. Another woman travels from school to school, teaching teenagers how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and to ward off date rape.
Yes, the hearts of Arkansans are as big and beautiful as the surrounding countryside.
There is much here to recognize besides the natural disasters, the crime, the politics, the poverty, the usual news. Around every terrible news story is much more than what is covered on TV or the radio. Arkansas is big, and the news, the things to know, reaches way beyond the sensational sound bites. Arkansas is far from superficial, folks.
In Arkansas, everything is big.