I actually grew up on a farm. But now I live in a small town. How small? 223 residents at the time of the last census.
The thing I like best about living in a small town is the sense of community.
When someone get sick or has an accident, or a baby born with a something that needs to be fixed, someone throws a benefit for them, and community shows up and gives large amounts of money to make sure they can pay their medical bills.
When someone’s house burns down, the community comes together and has the benefit, or at least someone collects donations to help them get back on their feet.
I’ll guess that at least half to 75% of the people in our community volunteer their time or money or resources to help others, or donate to their church or the Lions groups and they help others using that money. The number might even be closer to 100% than I even realize.
There’s at least one person who can do anything you need done, in a small community, from welders and mechanics, EMT’s and paramedics, to firemen and computer programmers, and even that one guy who will climb down in the sewer and snake your septic line if it gets plugged. There are painters and artists, writers and cooks, organizers and planners, and builders and demolition people. The funny thing is, once you become a member of that community, you realize that community is just another name for family. Sometimes in a community, just like in a family, people fight, and get angry and say bad things about each other. As long as we forgive each other and learn to forget the sins of those who trespass against us, we will also be forgiven when we mess up. Because we all do, I have never met one single perfect person, other than perhaps a newborn baby.
Most of the people who live in our small community grew up here, and half of them are related to the other half. I’m an outsider, as is my husband. When we first moved here, we weren’t part of the community, we didn’t know many people, and we kept to ourselves, as many others do. But as time went on, we met neighbors, made friends, and joined a church, and I took some training and joined our volunteer ambulance squad. We felt like part of the community, but yet we weren’t fully engaged in it. But once we bought the one little convenience store, the “general store” if you will, we truly became full members of the community. We know everyone, and everyone knows us.
In a small community like this, the customers soon become your friends. I know what beer they drink, what pizza they like, and their brand of tobacco if they partake. I know their car when they pull in the lot, and I usually know if anyone in their family is sick, getting married, having a baby, or dying. I know their kids, and their kids know me. And they know if I see anything “funny” going on, I’ll let their parents know. But I hope their kids also know that if they ever needed someone to talk to or to protect them, I’m always available.
Sometimes it makes me think of Mayberry. Maybe we don’t have Sherriff Andy or Deputy Barney Fife, but we have our own Andys, and our own Barneys, and our own Aunt Bee, maybe even a few Aunt Bees. Every little town has their own unique personalities, and their celebrities, and their fallen.
I love to listen to the older gentlemen, who come in for coffee in the afternoons, talk about “the good old days” and what they did when they were young and how time flies. It reminds me of the stories my grandfather used to tell me about when he was a boy playing baseball in Ocheyedan, Iowa. And the stories my husband’s grandfather, who grew up in that same town in Iowa, would tell about his boyhood, riding trains and playing his guitar and singing for money. And I realize that not that much has truly changed. Technology, sure, but that same sense of community existed then, and it still exists today.
We band together, and we help each other. We criticize each other, gossip about each other, and yet, we feed each other, we protect each other, and we all know that there’s always someone who has our back. And someday, we’ll be the ones talking about the “good old days” over a cup of coffee at the table, wondering where time went.