As I prepared to graduate from Slippery Rock University, many years ago, one of my professors said, "Now you just need to decide if you want to swim in a big pond or a little pond."
When we think of fish, many know that the smaller the pond, the smaller the fish. Fish will only grow large in large water. Somehow, genetically, they grow in relationship to their environment. Bigger ponds were in my mind. I had recently completed a tour in the Air Force where I had a taste of different cultures and bigger things. So, I swam on in search of bigger places and bigger things.
Within a decade, much to my surprise, I was right back in my little hometown of Franklin but working in a big pond company - Joy. For 21 years I swam in that big pond working on many international projects, traveling across the US and into a few other countries. As a little fish, I grew some. But I can say that people aren't fish.
The best thing that happened is that the "big pond" put me in my hometown which may seem like a little pond but I know the fish are bigger here. A small pond gives humans something more that doesn't correlate with the fish experience in small ponds.
In bigger communities - in cities - in large corporations - you can make a mark and you can make a name. You can build something. But you can never build the context and connection that you can in a smaller community. I've heard that there are only 6 degrees of separation from you and anyone else in the world. You know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who is a friend of the Queen of England. In a small community there is often only 1 or two degrees of separation. You know someone who is friends with the Mayor. You know someone who is a friend of the State Senator. Context and connection are close.
Many of the leaders in our community - the movers and shakers - never left. They are our Judges, our council people, our Mayors, our state representatives, our business leaders, our non-profit Directors, our Chamber leaders AND they are doing - HAVE BEEN doing - huge things in our community that impact many lives. They grew big in this pond and they inspire others - near and far. They inspire me.
It's not about being in a big pond or a little pond. It's about finding the place that allows you to thrive and a place where you can make a difference. In my experience, a small pond - a community of people like we have here in Venango county - provides greater opportunity for making a difference. It's because of context and connection. We support one another. We are close enough, with context enough, that we can do more, go further, and have a greater impact because of it. We care and are more aware of one another's strengths and yes, one another's weaknesses.
I'm not ashamed of having gone away and rambled in bigger ponds but I'm most thankful that circumstances required that I be here. I'm proud to be here and am committed to supporting the efforts of those continuing to make our pond a better place for all.