People who know me often hear songs of praise about my home state of Oklahoma. Being a St. Louis transplant, I’m often asked, “What’s so great about a state with nothing?” Given recent events, the "you must be kidding me" looks and debates I undertake have at least doubled if not tripled. The truth is simple. People choose Oklahoma for reasons beyond the norm.
Our society regularly emphasizes the superficial benefits in life. I believe that can relate across multiple realms. I’m going to make some generalizations that may or may not irritate people, but I believe my theory makes sense.
California has everything; great weather, coasts, mountains, lakes. There is nothing that state can’t offer. Texas is a great place to reside and one large reason is for the taxes. It’s a large state with ample ways to entertain and they include financial benefits for staying there. Montana has some of the most beautiful landscapes you could imagine. Every direction you look is breathtaking. It’s good for the soul up north. New York is the ‘big city’. Any and everything can happen there. Florida has perfect weather 90 percent of the year (present month obviously excluded), and who wouldn’t love access to a beach with a short drive from virtually anywhere in the state? Major cities like my current home of St. Louis offer city life with access to anything with the comfort of being able to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor.
That brings me to Oklahoma. Sure, there are some beautiful lakes, a pretty swell NBA team, not to mention incredible universities (cough, cough Boomer), but that probably doesn’t compare to all the glorious benefits listed above. So, why live there?
People. Oklahomans are some of the most kindhearted, polite individuals and families you will ever find. It’s not weird when you lock eyes on someone in passing to give the Oklahoma nod. (Not to be confused with the ‘sup’-chin-in-the-air egotistical wave.) This is almost a slight bow derived from traditional cowboys (similar to the hunk Curley in Oklahoma) who would tip their hats in a show of respect. It’s common practice to hold doors for women and elderly. If two people are battling over an open parking space, it’s a battle of who can be more polite and give up the prime spot. Oklahomans cheer for their sports teams....even when they lose. Crazy I know. If someone pops in at your house, you start whipping up cookies and dips.
Oklahoma is full of good people with amazing hearts. That’s why you live there. The local florist works late on a Sunday evening so a family who lost a loved one will have fresh flowers on the casket early Monday morning. When asked why, “Because I’d want that for my family.” Good people. The auto body shop owner works overtime daily without pay so his employees can spend time with their families. When asked why, “Because family should come first.” School teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid professionals in the state, but still come to work every day and make school a fun place to learn. (This includes dressing as a human chicken for a group of high-school students.) When asked why, “Because my teachers did things like that for me.” Oklahomans sacrifice so others can benefit.
You can vacation to the beautiful coastlines and amazing mountains, but you can’t visit the feeling of ‘home’ and the kindness that resides there. What lies inside the people of that great state is what makes it an amazing place to call home.
(Lori Poe was born and reared in Ada. She is a 2000 Ada High graduate and a 2004 OU graduate where she received her BA in Journalism. She currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri and works in sales for SOI, a professional employer organization.)