In 1981, in a small room in Mercy Hospital, in Slaton, I was born.
I was on the cusp of being of that final generation of children born in Mercy Hospital. After the mid-eighties no one else, unless under unusual or dire circumstances, was born in Slaton.
I consider myself lucky.
Since then, the past 21 years out of my 29 on earth, I have had a Slaton address. Those few years away were for college and those, inevitable, self-discovery moments in life. Once again, I consider myself lucky to be back.
For the past year, I have had the honor of writing Slaton’s history.
Upon graduating from college, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I wanted to begin my life as a writer but in the comforts of my hometown. Being born at the right time, in the right place, and under the right circumstances everything fell into place and soon I was the one penning Slaton’s history.
I consider myself lucky.
When it comes to writing history, I used the tried and true, “learn as you go” mentality, which, as it turned out, seemed to be the basic theme of Slaton’s history – sometimes we learned, and sometimes we just continued trying.
Throughout the experience there were stories that saddened me to write. Stories of heartache, loss, grief, and disappointment were very much a part of Slaton’s history. Was I saddened with the idea of having to write these stories? Yes. Do I regret ever writing these stories? No.
It was these moments of tragedy that truly defined Slatonites. It was the stories of people overcoming adversity and those triumphs through heartache that really defined the type of people Slatonites have become over the past one hundred years – resilient.
There were also moments in Slaton’s history that seemed to impact me, personally.
I had read and knew about the years of segregation only through history books and what I had seen in movies and on television. It was a new and eye opening experience to read the stories from 1940s Slaton and the changes in views and opinions in 1960s Slaton and how that social change came with a price.
I can’t help but think, as a minority man, of the many people who sacrificed during the Jim Crow era for me. I have had the opportunity to graduate from high school with the equal opportunity of education as everyone else, to be able to have attended and graduated from the college of my choice, and to be sitting here in my office at The Slatonite.
I was born a few generations after those dark days in American history. I had to write about how that segregated mindset affected Slaton, not to place blame, but to understand why sometimes those hostilities sometimes linger. The past often serves as a compass towards where we need to be heading. When it comes to race relations, it may seem that sometimes, we get turned around. We need reminders to get us back on track to understand that it took all kinds to build Slaton, and it will take all kinds to forge its future.
Then there were the people who were left out of my writings. Sometimes those names weren’t given. Sometimes they didn’t fit into the context or within the direct line of the meaning behind the story. Sometimes, especially during the earlier parts of my journey, there was no one left to talk to. Those people did matter, as did all people who have been a part of Slaton during its entire existence, but it would be impossible to include everyone. What makes small towns so charming, is that civic pride comes before individual ego. Those legacies will last far longer through word of mouth than I could have accorded in my small column series.
From cave men to Constantine, the dark ages to the great enlightenment, it is widely known that storytelling has been the main foundation of any society. No matter the belief structure, be it evolution or creationism, stories have had the ability to transcend humans to the next level of enlightenment.
Now, after a short one hundred years of existence, Slaton has begun its story. We are all a part of that. We are all Slaton. We all belong.
The same quote continued to run through my head as I wrote each and every piece because it, respectfully, defines what it means to be a Slatonite. The quote is by Margaret Mead and it is with these words that I close my column series. Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thanks for sharing your stories with me but most of all thanks for allowing a young man to return home.