Last week, I drove up to Lincoln, Nebraska to see my grandfather in the hospital. If you have never made that drive, congratulations, I envy you. It’s about two hours of nothing in Oklahoma until you reach Kansas when, almost immediately after crossing the border, your nothing turns into wheat fields for about 4 hours until you reach Nebraska, when the wheat turns to corn. Not a lot going on up there. But I did notice a trend while driving through all those dinky little towns in the middle of nowhere: they all claim something. Each one of them seemed to have some random museum or were the home to some obscure fake celebrity or sport’s star.
In Concordia, Kansas I saw signs that I originally thought said “National Orphan Museum” but was actually the “National Orphan Train Museum.” And even after going to a website, I’m not 100% clear on what that actually means.
In Hebron, Nebraska I stumbled upon the “World’s Largest Porch Swing” which I soon learned had an air of controversy surrounding it, as it is not listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, nor is it actually on a porch:
Not far from Hebron, back in Kansas, I have heard rumors of the world’s largest ball of string…maybe next time.
After hopping on I-80 in York, Nebraska, which you will recognize because of their water tower shaped like a hot-air balloon, I ran in to this fellow just hanging out on the side of the road:
A few years ago when I was driving to San Diego, somewhere in the Texas panhandle I remember bumping into the “Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere.” I just like how it’s not the largest in the world, just in the western hemisphere.
And of course all of this is coming from a guy from the city of Yukon Oklahoma, home of Garth Brooks and apparently, as our water tower says, the home of the “1986 State Girls Softball Champs.”
My point here is that everyone wants to be famous for something. These rural towns in the middle of nowhere probably have money set aside in the city budget for “tourism” and they have to burn it on something. When I made the detour to see the porch swing, there were signs up and down the street guiding me to it. Every town has a claim to fame, or in other words, every town has a story that they want you to hear. Every town thinks they are important, and they want to share that with you.
Yukon is home to Route 66, the mother road. It is apart of our story, as well as other cities stretched across the United States. You can’t be on Route 66 without knowing you’re on Route 66 in any of those cities because they have signs posted everywhere. If you wanted, you could go right into our local Walmart (which is not located on Route 66) and buy a t-shirt or shot glass commemorating Route 66. The road is a part of our story. Just as the Chisholm Trail is apart of our story. Just as the Orphan Trains are apart of their story. They just want you to hear it.
And this is the part of the story where you and the city connect.
You have a story as well and to you it may seem insignificant, like in the case of the world’s largest ball of string, but you have to let your story be known. Does anyone actually want to see a ball of string? You’d be surprised. But regardless, you have to tell your story like everyone want to hear it. Show off your ball of string and make everyone believe it’s worth the 15 minute detour. God has given you your story, and you must take it, embrace it, and share it.
Yukon is about 15 minutes from Oklahoma City and the 1995 Bombing Memorial. One of the craziest and most tragic days in our country’s history. And as sad and emotional as that moment was, the bombing is a part of OKC’s story. You cannot talk about the city without talking about those dark days. It’s a scar to us down here, a wound that is still healing, but it is still our story. Refusing to tell the story is dishonoring to our city.
Refusing to tell our story is dishonoring yourself, no matter the scars and wounds. Those are yours, embrace them.
We may not have our own water towers and street signs to display our stories, we may not have t-shirts saying “Home of Divorce or Depression or Cutting or Addiction” or even signs that say “Home of The Best Laugh This Side of the Mississippi or Voted Best Hugger or I Actually Listen” but we have to make these things known. Every chance we get. God has funded you with the necessary tools and advertisement to let yourself be known, and in turn, making Him be known as well. Because your story may seem like your story, but isn’t it really about something or someone else? Are the stories of revival in Africa and China stories of Africa and China, or of something else? Failing to tell your story is failing to tell God’s story.
I get it, you think your story is dumb. The equivalent to you being the hometown of Nickelback or something, I get it, you think no one cares. And to be honest, the majority of people probably won’t. Your story will fall upon more deaf ears and people that could care less than people who will give you the time of day. But someone out there needs to hear it. Trust me.
You only have one story, and you can try and rip out certain pages of that story and run from them, but it’s not doing you any justice. If you rip out important pages of a book, the story becomes boring. Do not do the same to your story. Embrace it, run with it, and tell it.
Mitchell Richards, home of insecurities, unfulfilled potential, good listening, and pride.
What do you have? What is your story?