Still Standing

By : Emma Johnston


I’ve recently stumbled across a CBC television program called Still Standing. This weekly program follows Newfoundlander Jonny Harris as he visits small rural towns across Canada. His goal is to explore places that have been hit hard by economic difficulties, issues of race, tragedies, extreme weather or other hurdles that have impacted our rural Canadian towns. The first episode I watched featured Vittoria Ontario, a small town, thirty minutes from Burford heading south towards Lake Erie. This village (very similar to ours) was hit hard when tobacco became a less profitable crop, when the highway rerouted people away from the small towns in the area and as the cities around us started to build up. Listening to the host of the show, I felt like he was talking to and about people in OUR TOWN. I felt like suddenly there were other people out there who understood the value and love and hardship that exists in small rural Canadian villages.
I feel like this show ‘hears us!’ I suddenly realized there’s a group of people who see small towns as they are – struggling, strong, standing and laughing together, seeing the world just a little differently than our urban friends. Since I first watched this Vittoria episode, I’ve likely watched 15 other episodes, learning more about other small towns and how, like us, they are trying to make things work.
My dad recently complimented me, I was so taken by what he said, I ran and wrote it down. He said “what I see from you is someone who is so grateful and such a huge supporter of living the simple life. You find joy in home and rural living and you call others to see and love it too.” (aw, thanks dad!)
Yes! This is true, I love the simple, rural life. Not that I don’t want to travel and have adventures – I do! I want to read and learn and go places and try new things, for sure. But no matter how far I wander, I am a small town girl with a heart that loves my home. This show, Still Standing, has the same heart – a heart for lifting up and identifying with the real joys and challenges of small town life.
The other night some friends were over, “come look at the clouds” said a friend, “they’re perfect.” We went outside in our big back yard and looked up at the sky. The clouds were stunning, spread out over the vast, open sky. The moon was bright, the air cool, the world quiet. It was perfect, he was right. There we were, standing in a big yard staring at a clear, uninhibited sky. I’d take that over looking at apartment buildings and light pollution any day.
Small towns and rural living come with their own challenges. We have spotty internet, we don’t have 24 hour convenience or grocery stores, we don’t have all day gyms or Costco or malls. We don’t have all the services, activities, sports, extra curricular programs or public transportation that our urban neighbours do. Our businesses are owned by families and when they struggle, we all struggle. Our air often smells like manure, tractors travel down our back roads and we spend hours every fall raking leaves. Small town living is different.
But I love these struggles. I love being a proponent of the simple life. A life lived with my family, close to my friends and surrounded by rolling fields and beautiful forests. Even when my children ask me the same question 6 996 times a day or when I have to peel them from their video games or have to spend more money on yet another pair of shoes because they’ve just out grown them, I love it.
Even though our lawns are big and take forever to cut and weed and we spend so much time trimming trees and shoveling long driveways, I wouldn’t trade it for a minute.
Even though we don’t have many fancy restaurants to eat at or places to visit, drinking a soft Honey Badger beer with friends or making a home cooked meal for my family is even better.
I know rural dwellers and especially those who more than just live here, but love here, are a different kind of people. We see our community as something to take care of, something to share with others, something to support with our money and time, something to promote and back up and pour into.
We are different. We often work, play and see life just a little differently. But it was so nice to watch a show made just for and about people like us. Small towns, we’re tough, resilient, safe and struggling, but, like the name of that show – it’s not easy, but we’re Still Standing!

Still Standing

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By: Clayton Barker 1940’s the Burford Armoury. Note the cannons in the front and the white-painted posts along William Street (St. William today). Photo from Clayton Barker’s personal collection. The Brantford ExpositorNov. 2nd, 1942 BURFORD TOWNSHIP EXCEEDS OBJECTIVE:It was announced at Victory Loan headquarters this afternoon at 2:45 p.m., that […]

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