In June, my husband and I moved to Columbia, South Carolina. Both priests, we were soon ensconced in parish life, which is a very quick introduction to the society of small southern towns. In July, we bought a house that had been previously owned by at least one of our parishioners, and had significant connections for several others; though my husband had grown up in a small town — in a state that boasts the highest social capital of any — I was new to this world where everyone knew where the minister had been out to eat on a Saturday night.
Fewer and fewer places boast the community necessary for raising and sustaining people of integrity. As young professionals move all over the country and the world for their careers, family ties are loosened and childhood friendships fade away. When these young professionals end up with families of their own, their children no longer play with the children of their friends; the strength and security offered by raising one’s children amongst family and friends is missing in most families throughout the United States. The accountability offered to high schoolers, knowing that their Mommas will be told about their nighttime antics, is invaluable in forming young people of character.
Perhaps a small rejoinder is offered today by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine (among many others). Young people — and old, alike! — are again held accountable for their words, decisions, and actions. Much more of our lives are recorded than ever before, and while this can lead to embarrassment, and even safety issues in some cases, it can also lead to accountability. Though we may not live near our families or old friends anymore, others can find us, and can call us to account for the self that we choose to project. Comments posted can be tracked and opinions challenged. More of our lives are available online for public consumption, but this may not be a particularly bad thing. How much of my grandmother’s life was on display as the preacher’s child in a small town in Georgia? Probably no less than my own virtual footprint. Our small-town accountability is hardly replaceable, but I wonder if the internet works in somewhat the same way — knowing that you can’t be completely certain that your nighttime antics won’t find their way back to your Momma somehow.