Friday, April 9, 2021

The #Midwessay: Beeda Speis, The Pollyanna of Ohio

There's one story that I keep returning to, over and over, writing and rewriting, turning it and tilting it this way and that so I can examine it from every possible angle. It's this story of growing up in Vandalia, Ohio, the "Crossroads of America". 
     I’m always at those crossroads, figuratively and literally. I’ve been there all my life. Sometimes it consumes me. Sometimes it plagues me. I’m there physically, psychologically, emotionally. My history is there. It’s where I’m most comfortable. 
     The crossroads are where East meets West and North meets South. It’s where Route 40 crosses Route 25 and where I-70 crosses I-75. If I did dare to leave, which direction should I go? Which path should I choose? Or, is the ideal path to stay put? Should I continue to live at the Crossroads, facing every direction but moving in no direction at all? What good is a crossroad if you don’t choose a path?
     All of the Ohio essayists seem to share this strange sense of wanting to leave or, for those who did leave, wanting to return. What is it about this place that makes people want to escape but then, draws them back? Read this weeks' essays to find out.
     Ohioans: We'd love to have more essays in conversation with the #Midwessay. Email your take on the subject to and I'll get your words turned in to the Powers-That-Be. —Beeda Speis, Ohio Coordinator

The Pollyanna of Ohio

Beeda Speis


I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life and currently reside less than twenty miles from my childhood home. I love it here. I love the ideology and the values of Midwesterners. I love the sense of community and family that seems to resonate everywhere. 
     We approach life a little differently:
  • We make eye contact with people we pass on the street and even smile and say “hi.”
  • If we’re riding the bus and a fellow passenger falls asleep, we wake them up when it’s their stop. When we get off the bus, we tell the bus driver, “thank you.”
  • We wave to the garbage collectors.
  • When we’re on an elevator, we don’t just stare in silence at the numbers over the door. We make small talk with each other and say things like, “Have a blessed day” when we reach our floor. 
  • We start conversations in the check-out line at IGA and may even share the gospel.
  • If we see a car broken down, we stop to see if they need a cellphone to call for help.
  • If we see an accident, we hang around to be a witness for the police report.
  • We welcome new neighbors with a home-baked dessert.
  • We introduce ourselves to newcomers at church.
  • In the aftermath of a disaster, we band together and pitch in to help clean up, provide food, tools, money, clothing, and emotional and spiritual support.
  • We know our neighbors and even our postal carrier by name.
  • We shovel the driveways and sidewalks of widows, single people, the elderly.
  • We enjoy garage sales, farmer’s markets, and flea markets.
  • We report things that are out of the ordinary in our neighborhoods and look out for our neighbors.
  • When someone starts mowing, everyone else in the neighborhood gets out and mows, too.
  • Our yards are adorned with gnomes, birdfeeders, and oversized thermometers.
  • For every celebration or setback, we cook and bake. Food is like love wrapped in cellophane.
I’m proud of all of these things, and although the characteristics may not hold true everywhere, they still seem to be a way of life for those I interact with. 
     I am thankful I can still see the goodness in the hearts of many after all of these years, and I attribute that quality to God, my family, and growing up in the Midwest.

Beeda Speis' work has been published in the anthology Overcoming Fear and is forthcoming in Sisterhood Is Powerful Except When It Is Not: Research and Personal Perspectives About Bullying in the Female World, as well as Mock Turtle Zine. She has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, and is a member of Jerry Jenkins’ writing guild. Her blog can be found at

What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond.  These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors

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