I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska during the dead of Winter, and for the first 23 years of my life, I lived in the same house, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and then left everything behind for Washington, D.C. and soon after — the big city lights of New York where I reside today.
Nebraska, I have discovered, stays with you always. Its influence knows no borders. Its morals are bred from the earth that birthed your body. Its rivers indelibly brand your soul with hope and hard work as surely as the sun cracks a baby blue Cornhusker sky every morning.
There is no escape from the flatlands and sandhills of Nebraska: They bind you tighter to the land than any house or deed or cabin ever could. In Nebraska, you take the good with the bad. You count yourself blessed if you’re lucky enough to feel the wind racing in your ears every day of your life.
Growing up in Nebraska, you’re taught to work hard and live right. Some die young. Everyone dies knowing they lived. All Nebraskans prosper in the simple philosophy of doing to others as you would have them do unto you. That code serves you pretty well because it ensures a baseline for kindness in return for the same. We call that a square deal in Nebraska, and you can’t do better than even.
Cheating or cutting a corner or trying to get yourself more than a fair shake doesn’t get you far in Nebraska. You learn this hard fact early in life, for the icy shunning of a community that doesn’t approve of a quick way out chills you out faster and longer than the fleeting burst of a short term enrichment.
What Nebraska doesn’t teach you, however, is how to deal with the rest of the world where cheating your friends and bad-mouthing your neighbors is considered the behavioral norm — and it isn’t taught because such a situation isn’t untenable in Nebraska — it isn’t taught because it’s just plain unthinkable.
I plan to examine the effect of Nebraska upon me and others like me here with you in Beyond Nebraska. We’ll meet some interesting folks and ponder some of the finer points of life that may be lost in a world that yearns only to go faster.
Sometimes slowing things down a tad to examine the avenues that brought us together can lead us up to greater heights of satisfaction and happiness. That’s my hope, anyway, and I appreciate you taking the time to seek out the lives we may miss along the backroads as we all speed the paths to glory that slowly lead us but only to the grave.