By James M. Decker

Editor’s note: publication was delayed from Monday to Tuesday due to a minor illness. All is well now, but my apologies for the lack of timeliness.

This past weekend, I heard a really sharp testimony at church, after a church member returned from a mission trip. One of the main points that the person made, learned on this mission trip, both about other people and about themselves, was this statement: You Are Worthy.

I got to thinking about how this applies within the efforts to improve our communities. How many of you have ever struggled with the notion of whether you are worthy of your goals? Well, guess what? YOU ARE.

If we’re honest, we all deal with this. It’s no secret, from my writings in this space and elsewhere, that I have some ambitious goals for Stamford. And occasionally, doubt can creep in. Our rural communities in West Texas have been in decline for the better part of 30 years. Rural America has been on a downward trajectory for a half century. The reasons for these trends are large, complicated, and bigger than any one of our communities. The world tells us that rural America and our rural communities are a lost cause. How can we overcome that? Are there enough of us to do what all needs to be done? The world tells us that it would be easier, that our lives and families would be better off, if we just packed it all in and moved to a faceless subdivision somewhere.

And then, I look around my community. I see the faces of its people. I see the quality of those people. Whatever doubt I have starts to evaporate. In fact, the idea that rural America is a lost cause only redoubles my commitment to Stamford and to rural America. For the most part, rural places were never settled because they were easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The frontier was settled by people who eschewed the relative ease of settled areas. Those pioneers pushed to new places, not for ease, but for opportunity—no matter their previous lot in life, no matter their family’s history, they could still make something of themselves and leave a life better than the one that they were given.

The same holds true for rural America today. It’s not the easy choice to make a life here, but our communities have never been the “easy” choice. But we’re still here for a reason. We’re here because of the powerful impact these places had on our lives, because of opportunity, because of the quality of the people.

The world encourages self doubt in our lives. It’s easy to think that you are not worthy of the challenges faced by your community, or that your community itself isn’t worthy. But don’t forget. Our communities are worthy. We are worthy. YOU are worthy.

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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at


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