My wife Wendy grew up in Georgia, went to Georgia Tech, and spent a lot of her summers as a kid with her “Granny” down in the southwestern part of the state. The last couple of days, we headed down that way to visit with one of Granny’s best friends, Miss Francis, who is 88 years old, still works a farm, dips snuff, and drives a pickup truck with a shotgun in the back. She’s without question one of the most amazing people I know.
To say that life for the kids where Miss Francis lives is a bit different from my own kids’ is obviously an understatement. Most of the homes in her town are either for sale or falling down. It’s a town that even Wal-Mart has decided to bypass. Unemployment is high, there is a great deal of poverty, and, not surprisingly, the school systems are not the best. As I watched my barefooted kids play with the barefooted neighborhood children, I thought about how different their futures would likely be. The opportunities there are scarce.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of things from Miss Francis’ world that I would wish for my kids. We spent a full day at a country pond catching bass and sunnies, watching the clouds build as the afternoon wore on, listening to the deep, rolling thunder rumble in the distance. It was the slowest day I’ve had in years, and it felt good. Everyone in the town knew Miss Francis, and even though it wasn’t technically true, everyone seemed genuinely pleased to be meeting her grandkids and great-grand babies. And the fried egg sandwiches for breakfast, the eggs cooked up in bacon fat, well…let’s say they beat Dunkin Donuts any day. There is much that appeals about a simpler, less complicated existence.
But after coming off of five days of heady conversation about blogs and the Web and technology changing the world at NECC, I kept looking at those kids playing in the streets and wondering how much a connection might change their lives. Would it bring them more opportunities? Would it allow them to find new passions that in some way might help them build better lives? Or is it just me imposing my worldview on a place that I really have little understanding of at all? Obviously, it’s making me think.
On the way out of town, we took Miss Francis to the local Eckerd’s Drug Store where we showed her how to plug the chip from the digital camera she got at Christmas into the print-making computer they had. She said that now that she knew how to do that, she couldn’t wait to take more pictures.
And I started thinking some more.