Nobody wants to go down with a ship, let alone be at the helm as it slips low beneath the waves. Living in struggling rural America and being a wayward “yes man,” I seem to find myself in the sad and unfortunate situation of being on teams managing declines. Though not unique to our rural community (and in fact less problematic in ours than in many others) the declining social engagement in clubs, organizations and all manner of non-school-affiliated athletic pursuits impacts us more with each passing year.
Researcher and author Robert Putnam wrote a book, “Bowling Alone,” that greatly influenced me when I studied politics and sociology at college. Coming from a dwindling community, I recognized many aspects of what he addressed. His general premise was that bowling leagues and many other social/civic organizations increasingly suffer for members because we live in a progressively detached society. People are drawn away to increasingly busy children/family activities, work longer hours and are more prone to stay home and soak in the joys of television and the internet. Adding to this for us rural folks is a decline in population and a larger unrecognized commuter lifestyle pulling us away.