1) An invitation for a free meal from our local telephone company.
2) the local newspaper with headlines like these:
- New Windows Installed at Catholic Church
- Benefit taco bar
- New salon in town
- Benefit for family
- High school spring play
The bank closes at 3. There's just one restaurant (thank goodness we have at least that!). No gas station. There are pumps with a key, but it's more expensive than a regular station plus I don't have a key! And of course everyone knows your business, even if you're not an open book like me.
But you know what, the benefits far outweigh any of those things. Just look at those headlines in the paper. Real people. Real things. Real life. This is what's happening here, in my community, not halfway across the country or the world.
Sure, those things are important to know, but I think the constant flow of events we have no control over is a big source of anxiety in our world.
Here in a small town,we take care of each other. There were two benefits in one weekend! One for a young man diagnosed with cancer and the other for a young family whose father was killed in a car accident. Fire victims. Tornado victims. Missionaries. Children with disabilities. We hold benefits for all of them. What we do here makes a tangible, immediate and visible difference to the people around us.
When my mom had knee surgery, I put her on our church's prayer chain and within hours, dozens of people - many who knew her or I, and I'm sure many that didn't - were praying for her.
We go up town and see Brady's teachers, babysitters and principal. We see family, friends from school, church members, our pastor. We know and are known. We have a very present and clear identity in this place.
No one gets lost, no one is forgotten, no one "blends in" or "slips through the cracks." Here, in our small town, it's personal. And no matter how fast paced everything else is, I can snuggle into the calm, slow, comforting rhythm of this place.
Not everyone can live in a small town, but maybe a person in a big city can create a small space within the larger community. Something that resembles small-town life. A unity. An awareness of your neighbors and their needs. A personal, tangible focus detached from the larger world and its issues.
Let's take care of each other. Let's get each other through the rough times.
Without that, we risk a sad, fleeting, frantic, anxious, distracted, invisible existence. I've seen it and lived it and I never want to go back to it. Instead, let's make it all mean something right here, right now and right in front of us.