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WNIJ Perspectives
Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

A Town That Feels Like Home

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I like to say I’m a country boy. That means I like swimming in the small pond. I like small towns.

For years, I struggled when asked: “Where ya from?” We moved so much when I was growing up, my response was, “Northern Illinois.”

Now I have an answer — Ottawa. That’s in LaSalle County … Starved Rock Country. Since moving here I’ve discovered family roots and relatives I never knew.

I came to Ottawa in 1984 to be managing editor of the small town daily. I stayed 30 years … and counting.

In a small town you see the impact of what you are doing. People on the street tell you. You feel all the ripples in small ponds. So we found the perfect place to raise two sons.

You get to know a community through groups trying to make a difference, from store owners you know by first name, crazy parents shouting from Little League bleachers, neighbors chatting at the grocery checkout, and government leaders who were born and raised here.

Local events are like a neighborhood party. Instead of weaving through a crowd of strangers, you’re waving to neighbors or finding friends you haven’t seen for a while. There’s hugs and back-slapping. Friendly banter with a stranger in line at the popcorn wagon is comfortable and natural.

You bump into teachers who taught your kids. They remember their names and ask about them. You get to thank them — and mean it.

You bike or walk local paths, nod a hello to everyone who passes, and pick up litter when you find it. Lots of pride.

I retired more than two years ago and still enjoy moving about the town, watching the mix of changes and growth. And savoring what has not changed.

I found a hometown … because it feels like home.

Even if retirement takes me someplace else someday, this country boy knows where he will plant his ashes.

I’m Lonny Cain, and that’s my Perspective.

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