Life, family, business

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…just a kid from a small town….

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.

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“My father told me I was a disgrace to the family.”  With tear-filled eyes, a young woman told me this today.

In my line of work, I often have people telling me their life’s stories.  No, I’m not a bar tender, I’m the local convenience store clerk.  I must have an sympathetic look about me, because over the years I have heard more stories than I can even fathom.  Many times, people talk to me because I do try very hard to just listen. I try not to offer advice unless they ask, I listen and sympathize.  That’s it. I’m empathetic.

Listening can be hard.  Our brains jump to conclusions, come up with strategy and advice, organize and plan.  Our brains think they know everything, what’s right, and what’s wrong, with us and other people.  Our brains say that we are right and the other person is wrong, we know what we’re talking about and we know the correct thing to do next, or say, or retaliate.

But our hearts, if we can learn to listen to our hearts, know truth much more than our brains.  Our hearts can imagine these scenarios with “us” as the main character.  Our hearts can see and hear heart break, pain, worry, fear, but also joy, love, happiness, and all the things in between.

Shame.  This girl felt shame when she told me what her dad said to her.  But she also felt abandonment.  This dad who loved her said these cutting remarks in front of her whole family in a moment of anger.  This shaking young woman became a teary abandoned little girl right in front of my eyes as she told me this story. My heart broke for her.  I know how it feels when you don’t meet the expectations of those you love and respect.

I know this woman, and I know her dad, who loves her very much.  But all those years of love and care, and hard work for your family, and the respect a parent has built up can come crashing down with just one word.  Words are very important, and very dangerous.  You have to be very careful using words, and think about the words that you choose and how they will affect the people you are giving those words to.  Words can build you up, or words can cut into your heart like a dagger and leave horrible wounds and scars that last forever.


Is it unfair for me to expect unconditional love from my dad or my mom?  What if I’ve never had that kind of a relationship with my parents?  What if my parents were the kind who were selfish or absent, unloving or uncaring?

Regardless of how our parents treated us, we all need to remember that we are who we choose to be.  If you choose to live in your despair, you will always feel the negative things in life.  But if you choose to live in your happiness, you will feel the the positive things in life.  Some of the happiest people I know had some of the worst childhoods.  Some of the most depressed people I know grew up in higher class families with attentive parents and had all the material things they could ask for.  How can this be?

You have to choose which words you believe.  And always remember that you don’t have to take the words that other people try to give you.  Its a learning process, but saying “no, thank you”, to the words you don’t want is much better than taking those words anyway and trying to figure out what to do with them later.  Once you’ve taken the words as your own, its much harder to get rid of them, than if you just refused to take them in the first place.

Only you have that power.  Only you can choose what to believe about yourself, which words you choose to keep, that you feel define you, who you are to yourself. Those are the words that mean the most, the words that live in your heart.  If you can find a peaceful place to listen to your heart, which words would your heart say you are?