As a teenager, I remember thinking that it would be so much more desirable to live in a zip code other than 48062. Richmond was just so dull, so dull that teenagers hung out in the Kmart parking lot for their weekend entertainment. How exciting it would be if I lived in my dad’s childhood town of Rochester! Rochester and its suburban sibling, Rochester Hills, had so much more to offer than Richmond—a downtown bustling with unique shops and restaurants, Oakland University, beautiful neighborhoods, and hills. Richmond, like its landscape, was flat. My distaste for my hometown probably stemmed from the fact that my high school drew students from a multi-county area, including a large contingent from affluent Oakland County. Those of us from Richmond and Armada were lowly farm kids in their eyes, or so I thought.
Fast forward to 1997, when my husband and I got married and settled in Lansing. Our career paths were slightly uncertain at the time; he was training in Lansing, but knew he could be transferred elsewhere in Michigan after a few months’ time. I had to start over, but felt confident that the Lansing area would be a fertile environment for job hunting. After all, with state government, Michigan State University, and so much more right there, surely I would find something!
How wrong I was! In just a few months, my husband was assigned to a management position in Hillsdale. We were crushed. As much as we loved attending Hillsdale College, we had no desire to live in that small town, where time seemed to have stopped circa 1980. Because I was still job hunting and had lots of feelers out yet in Lansing, the most logical solution was to move midway between the capital city and Hillsdale—to Jackson. Yet the thought of living in Jackson also made our spirits plummet. I had only had minimal exposure to Jackson while in college; I had gone to the ice cream parlor a few times and to the ice rink once. But I remembered the news articles from a few years earlier that had ranked Jackson the worst place to live in America. And this would be my new home?!
We had a hard time letting go of Lansing. We made frequent trips there the first few months after we moved, unsatisfied with the shopping and entertainment options in Jackson. I bought the Sunday Lansing State Journal for many weeks, still optimistic that I could find a job in the Lansing area. But gradually, we began to adapt to our new surroundings and started to sink roots into the community. On our first Sunday in Jackson, we went to a church, intending to visit a different church each week until we found the right one. But we never visited any others. For 19 years, we’ve been a part of that same wonderful church family, which has provided us with dear friends and an opportunity for me to use my musical gifts in the worship band. And I never found a job in Lansing. Instead, I wound up back where my adult life began—Hillsdale College—and where I continue to work today.
Nearly two decades later, Jackson, while certainly not glamorous, is home to me. It may not boast the variety of entertainment and retail options of larger cities, but it does hold the titles of Michigan’s best donuts and best barbecue. It has a man-made waterfall, lovely parks, rolling hills, awesome coney dogs if you’re into that (I’m not), and its very own superhero, Captain Jackson (how many towns can boast of a superhero who wears a homemade cape and yellow work gloves?!). I’ve attended fabulous concerts, savored fine local wines, and been mesmerized by the idyllic sunrise over the hills (small though they may be), all in Jackson County.
I believe, and know, that living in Jackson is all a part of God’s plan for my life. Whether I live out the rest of my days here remains to be seen. But I’ve bloomed where I’ve been planted. We all should. Whether you live in Richmond (which actually is a great place to live), Jackson, Detroit, or Timbuktu, bloom in your community. Bring beauty to those around you in the way you live and serve.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11