Tuesday’s headlines may have seemed a little bleak.
The top story in this newspaper detailed a recent ranking of Scotland County, by a philanthropic organization and a university institute, as near the bottom of the state’s 100 counties for healthy living. The ranking included factors such as access to and quality of health care, alcohol and tobacco use and income.
Another story said that the population of Scotland County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has declined by 132 people in the past four years, or about 0.4 percent — virtually maintaining its population base of 36,000.
For those who have made this county home for any significant period of time, we doubt that either story could be considered a revelation.
Like most of the rural South, residents of Scotland County are not the healthiest. There is not an abundance of fresh, green, and leafy food. We inherited a culture of gathering for large meals, often laden with fatty foods, but no longer spend hours each day working away those fats in the fields. Our population base being neither large enough nor profitable enough for a large chain restaurant, perhaps with an extended salad bar, our fast-food restaurants stay busy. Many residents travel outside of the county for work, making for a long journey behind the wheel and less time for a gym visit before or after the punch of a time clock.
We don’t have a plethora of doctors, but most of those we do have are heavily involved in the community and we believe they make every effort to provide optimal care within their resources or find a place, albeit outside the county, where local patients can receive the services they need. As for drinking too much and smoking, well, those are just habits we have to find a way to kick.
Unsurprisingly, other counties near the bottom of the study’s list are also rural, although not all are small; to those who conduct such studies out of big-city offices, stepping into Scotland, Robeson or Richmond county may seem like taking a step back into time. In a way, they are right.
To their standards, our quality of life here may not be so great. It’s a small county and though Laurinburg is the county seat, it is also small, and just doesn’t offer the amenities a big city provides.
But what we do have are people like those highlighted in the centerpiece of Wednesday’s edition, those who are already taxed with the responsibilities of work and home yet go above and beyond to help others.
We have our share of problems, but what we also have is a community of folks willing to work to make this county better. And while that won’t happen overnight, it is certainly a step in the right direction.