This past week, a majority of the staff at Choices Clinic flew out to Chicago for the annual Heartbeat International Conference. This conference is a wonderful opportunity for pregnancy resource centers to gather together and attend workshops and sessions to gain new insights and tools that they can later implement into their centers. It’s also a time of fellowship between centers. This provides an environment of camaraderie and encouragement within the pregnancy center community. I feel like I took a crash course in social media strategies, fatherhood programs, and client care techniques. One speaker said it like this: you head to the water fountain to get a sip of water, but instead of a small, refreshing stream, you receive the water pressure of a power hose in your face. That’s somewhat the best way I can describe these last few days at the conference. Ideas of how to implement what I’ve learned are still stirring as we speak, and I’m not sure how to articulate my ideas into text yet. But I said this two weeks ago, and I’m more confident of it now than when I wrote it then: if you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to feel driven… and easy to get burned out if you go into overdrive. Let’s be honest, when you’re passionate, you can be a bit overzealous and ambitious. I realize it’s all for a good end, but dang y’all, we need to set boundaries and practice self care. It’s seriously a healthy habit to instate. I just have to continually remind myself that it’s ok to say no, even when a good opportunity presents itself. I remind myself of this every day. Why, do you ask? Because every day, I forget. Let’s prioritize, strategize, and refocus.
On another note, I must admit – I loved Chicago. The architecture, the river, the deep dish pizza – all of it. I especially loved the city skyline. My coworkers and I took an architectural boat tour, and we were able to see many different parts of Chicago via the river. If I had to pinpoint it, that experience was the highlight of my entire trip.
After our long trip home – via bus, plane and car, no less – I was greeted outside our loft with a kiss from Jim and a Knight Butcher burger in his hand (clearly he knows my love languages). I looked down the road at a relatively quiet afternoon in Laurel. Our little town had incredibly warm weather, a soft breeze blowing, and occasionally you’d see folks wandering from shop to shop along the sidewalks. I saw people warmly greet one another, calling each other by name. Compare this mental picture with another mental picture: in contrast to Laurel, you have Chicago. This big city had incredibly cool weather, there was a constant, harsh wind blowing, and the streets were packed with people. No warm greetings were exchanged. Head phones were in, cell phones were on and heads were down. People had places to go and people to see. Sure, if you’re there long enough, you’ll find pockets of community. People will get to know you and may call you by name on the sidewalk whenever you run into them. I know there are plenty of benefits to living in big cities. There are big opportunities, and big things are being accomplished there. But I also believe there’s a necessity for big things to be accomplished in small towns. Believe me, I’m fully aware that living in a small town means everyone knows you and tries to know your business. But there is something significant about being called by name, about being known. Chicago was truly breathtaking, but it reminded me of the many reasons why I love small town living: closeness, character, community and charm. I’d choose small-town-Laurel over a big-city-Chicago in a heartbeat.