Morris felt like home when I first set foot as a freshman at the university in 2014. I believed kind and amazing people lived in this town. I was able to forge great bonds, met amazing friends, and it felt like Morris had the kindest people until the pandemic of 2020.
In 2020, Morris became a place where I learned life lessons I never thought I would have to experience. Those lessons taught me a great deal about small towns and how fragile friendships are.
One of the lessons that I learned is how destructive and explosive gossip can be. While reading Katie Erdman’s article back in the March Stevens County Times newspaper, “Gossip can kill a community and greatly damage friendships,” I felt an agonizing pain while reading through it, and before I knew it, I was in tears.
It reminded me of what transpired in 2020. I was one of those who had to “bear the brunt of untrue gossip.” The article talked about how gossip can turn friends into enemies and how “devastating [it is] for the people involved.” The article reminded me of how I was unable to salvage a very special friendship that was meant to be cherished, unique, and loved. It was exactly just that until gossip about me got to families of the people who I loved and treasured. The gossip made my heart heavy for a great length during 2020. Due to the gossip, I lost a special friend all while handling the pandemic and experiencing racism in a place I never thought I would experience it. I had to fight for my reputation, fight for my job, and fight for my safety. I was targeted in the community while trying to live and make ends meet as everyone else in 2020.
I have said many times to friends, families, and people across the world that Morris felt like home, where I met people who were like family to me.
Unfortunately I was wrong about Morris and I was wrong about myself. It no longer felt like home. The experiences I went through changed my belief of how I view friendship and relationships. I did not like the person whom I had become because of this change in belief.
For the sake of my own peace and for others, I had become very defensive after what transpired and had to put up high walls. My interactions with the people of Morris changed because I had no idea who my friends or enemies were.
All for what purpose? The lessons I learned are that gossip in a small town can be extremely destructive and both racism and gossip can spread and kill faster than a virus will.
We all live under one sky, one sun, on one planet in one universe, and under one higher being, and I believe we all need to understand how important it is to care and love one another… Yet we hurt others with untrue gossip. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you react? How would you feel? I ask the people of Morris to understand someone’s action before spreading rumors and how much heartache you would have saved if you knew their story and background.
To the people of Morris, I know you can do better. Make Morris what it was when I first set foot in 2014. If 2020 should teach us anything, it is that we can do better as a community and be kind to others, and that we should all learn how to love and care for one another even if there are no benefits to you because that is the way life should be. As Jesus would say, ”love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).