What snakes can teach us about our town

Snakes routinely undergo ecdysis, the process of sloughing or molting their skin, as they outgrow it. When they shed their skin, they leave the old dead skin — and any parasites that have attached themselves to it — behind.

Despite the obvious political puns about both snakes and parasites, this analogy isn’t about politics. It is about a word that rural America dreads even more...change.

We wholeheartedly embrace and appreciate change in nature: the kaleidoscope of color in the fall leaves, the buds and blooms of spring, the first winter snow, and yes, even the snake skin we find on the ground fascinates us. All living things must change in order to grow. Once they stop growing, stop changing, they wither and die. It is the cycle of life.

Yet, in small towns and cities we are tremendously protective of what we have, what our parents and grandparents had. The old ways, the old places, the old traditions that bring the charm to our hometown. The revulsion of becoming like ———__ (insert name of nearest ‘big’ city) causes us to resist change and rail against growth as if it were a plague. It’s understandable, after all we love it just the way it is.

The way I see it, change is inevitable. We don’t have to like it, but it is true nonetheless. As a community we can choose to ignore it and fight it, but change will still happen. Or we can accept the inevitability of change and have some control over the change that occurs, and we can plan for it.

Choosing to fight against change leads to economic stagnation for the business community and more entrenched power players in a town’s bureaucracy. Economic stagnation is the death nail for many small once-nice towns as they wither and decay into a collection of boarded up shop windows and abandoned buildings. Economic growth demands change, whether that means more people living here, or having some attraction which brings people (and their money) over the hill and into town.

To some extent the City has control over population growth, as they hold the keys for building permits and new housing projects. But as people from over the hill flee their own changing cities and seek a better place to live, we face a dilemma. Either we build enough new housing to accommodate a modest growth rate, or limit new housing and watch our own property values and cost of living rise.

Rising property values are also a double-edged sword, for while they are generally good for us, it will necessarily force our children and grandchildren further out into the country to find affordable housing. If we become a ‘bedroom’ community without expanding new housing, costs will continue to rise but the economics of the town change very little. If we embrace and control the change, we can lure new businesses/employers to our valley and make the economy more vibrant as it grows.

Pain is rarely caused by change; it is caused by our resistance to change.

Michael Orr is a #1 Best Selling author and freelance writer from Emmett. Find out more about his fiction and non-fiction books at WordsmithMojo.com.

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