Where’s Grandpa?

A nice game of chess

A nice game of chess (Photo credit: Wouter de Koning)

Having lived in Western New York for almost 10 years now, I have heard many reasons for the economic decline of our region – and they all have some merit:

1. Taxation

2. Government policies that overburden the corporate and small business sectors (not to mention the average worker)

3. NAFTA (as well as the move to southern states by our businesses)

4. Increase of government to private sector ratio of workers

5. Salt on the roads instead of sand (or coal dust)

6. Cost of litigation and legislation

But I would like to add another one that most people don’t ever think about – retirees.

According to the US Census Bureau, the average age when people retire is 62, and they live for an average of 18 years in retirement.  If those same people plan on a $3000/month income from retirement for those 20 years, they would need approximately $500,000 in their nest egg (liable to wide fluctuations of course due to annualized rates of return, etc.).

Now imagine these people earning a living in WNY for 30+ years, building up this nest egg, then retiring to where else – sunny Florida.  Florida then becomes the recipient of this half a million dollar nest egg in the form of cost of living over the next 20 years.  WNY’s earned income becomes Florida’s revenue.

Is it any wonder that the economies of Southern states have been faring so much better than northern ones over the last 30 years?

Now imagine that nest egg being spiritual insight, wisdom and influence in a local congregation of believers.  Move down south to worship with hundreds of others in the same boat you are in, and the enjoyment and entertainment values are high – but ministry potential is low.  No one there needs what you have, and the needs they do have – you can’t supply.

It is diversity of gifts and life stages and situations that create a healthy, sustainable Body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (I Corinthians 12:17-20 NIV)

It’s hard to mentor the younger generations in a retirement community.

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“Rednecks” and “Citiots”

Boy fishing from pier

Boy fishing from pier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perjorative terms both, but you know who I’m talking about…unless you live in a city, in which case you probably have never heard the term “citiot” before.  In the country, it is a common term.  A redneck is a term that was originally applied to farmers because of their working outside without a collar on, and the obvious resulting sunburn on the back of the neck.  This was seen as a negative thing by those who work their whole lives to be able to get a window in their office from which they can see the outside they spurn – yet crave.  “Citiot” is how country people describe people from the city.  A quaint, but catchy combination of “city” and “idiot”.  They don’t know how to do anything useful (as country people determine usefulness) and reading a subway map or calling for take-out doesn’t count.

A healthier way of phrasing the contrast is generalists vs. specialists.

I have lived in everything from a National Forest in the middle of Arizona to Waldorf, MD where those who work in Baltimore and D.C. sleep.  I have lived in the Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast.  I have lived in small towns, big cities and everything in between.

I choose country.

In a city, you live in a network of specialists with money as the primary vehicle for getting things done.  You generally earn more money for your specialty than you could in a rural community, but you also have to spend more in order to live in the city.  You do what you do, and you do it well.  For anything else, you call in another specialist – who charges a specialist price, which you can afford due to your specialist salary.

In the country, you live in a network of relationships with those as the primary vehicle for getting things done.  You generally earn less money for your occupation than you could in a city, but you also have to spend less in order to live in the country.  You do what you do reasonably well (though in all honestly, probably not as well as your colleague in the city), but for most of life’s needs – you are the solution, or at least your friends are.  This is why Hank Williams Jr.’s song is not “A City Boy can Survive.”

For the most part, you can find a specialist in a city that can do anything a country person can do – only better…and more expensively; but a country person has a wider range of personal expertise.

I love life – all of it, ok, maybe just most of it.  I also love to learn knew things, and then do them.  I grow a garden from seed, I can and freeze said produce.  I can not only catch fish, but I know how to clean, cook and preserve them.  I know how to hunt, and butcher and wrap the meat.  I know the parts of an animal, how to cut them to make steaks, roasts or grind.  When something breaks – I fix it (80% of the time).  I know my way around a woodshop and a woodshed.  I know how to fell a tree and turn it into firewood or furniture.  None of these things (or a hundred others) are what I do occupationally.

I am a generalist.

I am a country boy.

When my eldest daughter only gained 1 pound in a year and a half, I took her to the city.  We went to the Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, and my daughter saw a specialist.

The world needs both.  Which one you are depends far more on whether or not you want to be knowledgeable about a vast array of things or an expert on a few.

Which one are you, and why do you prefer that mode of living?