I was raised in rural Virginia after my family moved there from Maryland when I was 7. We were called come-heres and always reminded that we didn’t belong.

My sister married a local boy with deep roots in the area and, after more than 40 years of marriage and two children, she is still a come-here.

I left at the age of 16, later reconnecting via Facebook with former high school friends. Those who remained in that general area are racist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-health care, pro-gun Trump supporters. Nearly everyone who left, for college or for work, are moderates or liberals.

Getting out into the world, meeting people from other cultures and faiths, learning what others think and believe, and becoming formally or informally educated produces fertile soil for empathy, compassion, understanding, and tolerance. Remaining isolated in groups that look, think, and feel like you, creates distrust, fear, and prejudice.

I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.

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