This morning I put on this shirt. A Brookfield Bulldogs shirt. Today is the Bell Game - when Brookfield plays their greatest rival the Marceline Tigers. A game that earned the title of "Best High School Football Rivalry" by USA Today.
As I did, I wondered, "Am I allowed to dawn blue and white today?" I wasn't born here, didn't even go to school here. I was born and raised six hours away by highway, worlds away by many other regards.
Are these colors, this pride, reserved for those with birthright?
When I came here, I never knew if this place would feel like home.
But since then, I've literally run thousands of miles on these city streets with women that are tough as nails, and love me with the unconditional love of family.
I've built a career on these back roads that wind these little towns together. A career that provides me more fulfillment than I could ever have gotten from the big city law firm I always thought I would work for.
I've married a man. A man who was born and raised here, a man who is devoted, hard working, faithful - because of this town.
We have made our family here, built a home and built a farm.
I've heard the narrative about small towns.
That they are dying, worn out, run down. But just like the narrative so often told about farming, it's not even close to the truth.
Since I've been here I've watched classes of graduating seniors go into the world and do amazing things. I've watched some of those same people be drawn right back here.
I've seen young people come home to start successful businesses, and continue long held family businesses.
I've watched the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce be graciously handed over to a young, excited and passionate group.
I've watched the mayor walk downtown with garage bags and gloves on, picking up trash to clean up Main Street.
My family is supported by devoted hospital and medical staff, a daycare staff that is second to none, a school system that has a proven track record of producing good human beings. All of these things are said to be in despair according to that narrative, yet they are alive and well here.
Very recently, I've witnessed this community wrap its arms around families who have lost loved ones too soon. The prayers for them so numerous and frequent, you can almost see them rising to the heavens.
I wasn't born here. I didn't walk those high school halls. And I've never actually rung the bell.
But like so many people who have discovered the pull of small town America, my pride in this town runs as pure and deep as any born here.
Now I know. I know this place is home.
So excuse me while I go cheer for my Brookfield Bulldogs.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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