Lisa met a man at her hospital who is taking his family to Kentucky for their vacation. You heard that right. He loves Lincoln and baseball and will be going to Lincoln’s birthplace and the Louisville slugger museum. He said there are many similarities between Kentucky and Pennsylvania – in fact some here call this place, “Pennsyltucky”. Nascar, country music, confederate flags, hunting and tatoos are the standard bearers as far as cultural icons here – much to our surprise. Also, it has been made apparent to us that people do not have an issue maintaining a certain image. The fact is – most people here seem as if they could not care less what they look like in public. Boots, cut off jeans, and tank tops seem to be the dress of the day – and you should see what the guys wear up here. No wonder there is such large Mennonite and Amish communities here – they seem to dress better.
But don’t think for a minute that I am making fun of these good people here. The fact is I love it! I am, of course, exaggerating to an extent – but it is true that personal appearance here does not seem to be as important as work ethic and what it means to be a good neighbor. We have been the benefactor of their kindness and once you meet people here you tend to look past appearances – as it should be.
Having never lived anywhere in my life but Owensboro I have no way of really verifying what I am about to say. And this will probably invoke some disagreements – but having spent years in social services I have seen things that have led me to the conclusion that image is very important in Owensboro. I have witnessed students and (and their families) in need of school clothes refuse to wear previously worn clothing because it is not brand name. Obviously there have been many exceptions to that but I can’t count the number of times I dealt with students who refused our help because of image issues. I understand that to some degree with middle school aged children, but the issue of what you wear, where you live, what you drive, and who you know and hang out with seem to be very high on the priority list for people in Owensboro – perhaps even higher than other places. I remember how refreshing it was to work with students from smaller, rural school districts in surrounding Owensboro counties and could immediately notice a difference. Not to say they were better than our students – they just did not have such a hangup about appearance or image. I often struggled getting Owensboro students to participate in our Ropes Course program simply because they did not want to be embarrassed. I am convinced in most cases it had less to do with being afraid and more to do with how they would look to their friends.
We have wonderful students and citizens in Owensboro and Lisa and I will always consider it home. It is just eye opening to live for a time in another place and observe the differences.
So go ahead Owensboro – put on your boots, crank up the country music and head out for a night on the town. Your brothers and sisters here in Pennsylvania will be proud.