There is a lot of speculation right now about what is going on in rural America. The perspectives vary wildly from the Hunger Games to the Hallmark Channel—abject poverty and perfect prosperity. As with many things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I was born and raised in Longview, a small town in southwest Washington. While I was growing up, my town thrived by supplying raw materials and manufactured products used all over the world. We had strong middle-class families built on abundant natural resources, union jobs, good schools, and connected communities.

Like so many kids from rural areas, I moved away for school and to build my career as an advocate. My parents stayed in Longview. Twelve years ago, I moved back to be with my folks as they aged. Since then, both of my parents have passed, but I continue to be deeply committed to my community.

The community I moved back to was different from the one I left. It’s a harder place to live now. Most of the traditional resource industries and agriculture have been reduced or shut down. We lag in access to basic infrastructure such as broadband and cell service. The results are predictable—high unemployment, high suicide rates, opioid use, generational poverty, and a feeling of being left behind.

Well-intentioned policies coming from the left often ignore or harm small towns and rural communities—not necessarily on purpose, but because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. Over the past few decades, Republicans have done very focused work in rural areas, while Democrats have largely been absent.

Read the full article about making more inclusive solutions by Teresa Purcell at YES! Magazine.