Small town life

Small town life
After more than 50 years of living in the same small town of about 4,000, reality has finally hit. Life in a small town is not so bad after all. Sure, it has its disadvantages – everyone knows your business – but the advantages far outweigh the bad. For example, everyone knows your business. Okay, that’s a contradiction, but considering the support we’ve received during what might be seen as the worst four months of our lives – small town living is the best.
During the early days of my illness in February, I didn’t really want to see anyone besides Fred, Lindsay, Anne, my mom, and my friend, Mary. I even turned down the offer of a visit by our pastoral team. But after a few weeks of this self-imposed exile, I realized I needed some outside interaction. About that time, word began to filter through the community and each day the mail carrier’s bag held several cards of well-wishes.
One of the biggest surprises was the day I went to physical therapy and found a gift bag waiting for me. Inside was a hand-made comforter with a note of explanation from the woman who was my babysitter almost 50 years ago. I’d seen her there the day before as she picked up her husband from his PT session. She’d probably be surprised to know that I sleep with that now because it’s the perfect weight for cool summer nights when my husband is still using the heavy feather duvet.
Then the food started to make its way to our house. First mashed potatoes from my mom, who somehow sensed my need for something completely different from my usual fare, then homemade bread from Mary, complete meals from my aunt and uncle and another friend. Having lived in a large city where I barely knew the neighbors, I’m pretty sure the offers of food, rides to the doctor, and visits would not have been nearly so prolific had we lived in a larger town.
Even now that I’m back in circulation, getting back to walking and biking, people still ask how I’m doing and the hugs at church are gentle, but full of caring. How would I have reacted to such a response when I was in my 20s? Would I have valued the friendliness of people I barely knew, but who obviously cared about me?
Now, four months have passed since the beginning of that traumatic stretch, and we’ve been shocked into reality by another set of circumstances. Just when we thought life was returning to semi-order, Fred’s employer decided that his responsibilities as CEO of the local chamber were a conflict of interest with his editorial job. With just three hours notice, he was “asked” to resign one or the other. Ironically, a year ago when he began to consider the part-time chamber work, his employers gave him the thumbs up – apparently they then saw it as a benefit for them , but changed their minds along the way. He chose not to resign from either, and was subsequently fired.
Whatever their real reasons for their actions, it has proven to be a good thing for us. He’s much less stressed and is now able to focus on his freelance work – building up his clientele, and learning much along the way. He’s smiling a lot more, laughing a lot more, and feeling bolstered by the outpouring of support from the community. Friends on Facebook make regular snide comments about the deteriorating appearance of the newspaper. Would such support have happened in a large city? Probably not – he’d have been just one of a large number of unemployed persons, and very few would have cared.
All this just goes to prove that life in a small town ain’t so bad after all.

2 responses to “Small town life

  1. Of course I vote for small towns, but I’m pleased to report good people live everywhere. Neighbors brought welcoming loaves of bread to us when we moved to St. Louis and in Salisbury NC our son was swamped with gifts when he was hospitalized after a bicycle accident and had to have a bowel resection. I’d put money on the likelihood that a nice person like you, Mary (and like the man you live with, Fred), would find support wherever you lived.

    • Pannabecker Steiner Mary

      You’re probably right, but then you and Karen are exceptions to a lot of things — including your absolute openness in meeting people and making good friends everywhere you are. BTW, that blog entry was not me at my best — I hadn’t written anything in so long and just couldn’t focus but decided I needed to do it just to get back in it. Of course, last night I had a bunch of ideas…

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