Publication Note: This column was first published in the January 12, 2017 edition of the Lonoke County Democrat weekly newspaper, linked HERE in its original format. It is the 3rd installment of the “Look at Lonoke” column.
Have you ever considered that, simply because of geography, we get to see the morning sun a few seconds sooner in Lonoke? Our day dawns just a bit earlier here in the east than in neighboring cities further to the west.
That is, of course, an unusual way of considering Lonoke’s position within our region. However, in a very real sense, there is a certain privilege to being on the the leading edge as the hope of a new day peeks above the horizon.
What do others around us see when they look in Lonoke’s direction? Perhaps a more important question to ask is, what do we see when we look at ourselves?
As a slow, quiet town of 4,287, it’s possible that we have become used to the idea of being overlooked. In fact, many of us who live here may have not stopped to think about the potential that lies within our community. However, I believe that is changing. I believe that we have begun to see ourselves differently. That new perspective is due to a very subtle, but fundamental change: we as a community are embracing a new direction.
Author Andy Stanley teaches the “Principle of the Path”: that direction, not intention, determines your destination. Now, this seems pretty intuitive when you think about it. Stanley uses the example of a road trip to illustrate the Principle of the Path. In our context, let’s say you loaded up the car, made a stop at the Dairy Bar before leaving town, and turned left to head west on Front Street. With the dashed yellow lines of Highway 70 passing in a blur, you could drive all day in that direction and never make it to Graceland. That’s because, if you want to go to Memphis, you have to be pointed in the right direction. Regardless of your intention, direction determines destination.
In the same way, a community must make a conscious decision to re-position itself and look in a different direction, in order for any intention of reaching a destination with a brighter future to be realized. In Lonoke, as we begin considering a new and different direction, I contend that our expectations for ourselves and our future will be subsequently raised.
It is true that when we look in a new direction, we will necessarily leave some things behind. In a community such as ours, there exists the need for environments of healing and redemption. As we acknowledge and own our realities, and as we undertake the process of walking together to strengthen our relationships, we will also find that there are things which we must never lose.
Those are the things that make us unique- our “local distinctiveness.”
There is a sense in which Lonoke is very different than the suburbs and other cities that surround our Capital City. Our built environment is different. Our scale is different. Our people are different. Quite simply, our story is different in Lonoke.
I believe in that difference is a very distinct blessing.
It’s okay not to be the same. Our potential for achievement does not lie in our ability to be the same as those around us. Our unique value proposition as a community comes in recognizing, and then celebrating, that which sets us apart and makes us unique. Chasing sameness will not generate innovation. Pursuing the generic will not establish an environment for the creative process.
I would submit to you that, as friends and neighbors, we could together compile a lengthy list of exceptional qualities and advantages to living in Lonoke. So, let’s uncover those things together. As we change our perspective to become more outward-focused, we can then invite others around us to look in a new direction, as well. Let’s return to the overlooked places, people, and potential that surround us here in Lonoke. In doing so, we will discover what we already know in our heart: that talent and strength often come from unexpected places.
In our corner of the Delta, the horizons are wider, our ponds are teeming with life, and the soils of our fields are rich with yet-to-be-realized opportunity.
Ryan Biles is an architect who just celebrated 13 years of marriage to Natalie, an Interior Designer. Living in Lonoke for over 12 years has given him the opportunity to serve as a Board Member of the George Washington Carver Alumni Association and join his fellow Lonoke Lions in service to the community. Keep up with the conversation about Lonoke’s new direction by using the hashtag #LookAtLonoke on social media.