In this article I wrote on the platform, Medium, I talk about my move from a big city in Colorado to a rural community in Southwest Missouri and how that translates into being home – alone – for the vast majority of my day, every day. There are certainly moments that feel lonelier than others but at the same time, I have found it to be a huge blessing. My times in solitude have afforded moments to work, pray, study – and think.
I recently started a nightly ritual of taking my journal to our lower back deck, sitting on the stairs, and looking at the night sky. Some nights I get to see the moonrise, others, it’s just a lone bright star right in front of me. If I’m a little chilly I wrap myself in a big blanket or dangle my feet in the hot tub that sits nearby.
I need this time. We all do. Time to think, ponder, and reflect. It’s really the best way to sort out questions or deal with stress. Tonight I thought about my day and the little things that make living in a small town enjoyable. Our neighbors are an absolute delight. In the summer months, you’d never know we had neighbors because of the lush, thick woods between the homes. In the winter months, when the leaves are all gone, we enjoy the twinkling deck lights off in the distance or colorful Christmas lights outlining the roofs. Summer or winter, I love the dots of lights from the marina below that reflect off the lake water. It really is lovely here.
The drive into town takes anywhere from 90 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on which side of town you need to go to. Today I went to the post office, a 3-minute drive, and chuckled as there was one person in line ahead of me. A virtual traffic jam out here. During the holidays, we can get up to four people in line and at that point, most are turning around and coming back later. In Colorado, I was used to waiting in long lines and love that it is rare to ever have a line – anywhere. As I finished my transaction, one of the postal ladies poked her head around the corner and I waved and said, “Hey, Tami!”. Tami is my mail lady and she’s the best. She’ll back up her 90’s gold minivan into my driveway, knock on my kitchen door through the garage and we’ll chat about all the latest with our families. I get to see pics of her grandchild and she asks about my son who is in college. She hand delivers my mail as much as possible, and I think that’s really awesome. Chevy Chase would be so jealous.
Living in a small town means most everyone has your back, or talks behind your back! There’s truth in that but for the most part, it’s a lot friendlier here. On our street, our neighbors are wonderful. Some are liberal, some conservative, and in these divisive days, we don’t care. Hugs are generous, we check on each other, go out to dinner, or invite each other over to our homes. In a small town, you don’t look at the differences as much as you do the camaraderie. Otherwise, life gets awkward, fast.
Staring at the dark sky tonight, I thought about how much I have loved living in a small town these last two years. Yet, I recalled other instances where I was able to find the “small town” in much larger situations.
BIG CITY, SMALL-TOWN RELATIONSHIPS
Back in my city girl days, I went to a church of 14,000! (The town I live in now is only 2400, for comparison.) Many folks didn’t want to attend that church because they wanted to be a part of something smaller, more familial. I completely understand. The thought of going to that megachurch, in the beginning, was really overwhelming but the draw I felt was so strong that I went and I was surprised at how small the church really was. It didn’t take long before I found my small town within that large congregation and those years were amazing. Since then, I’ve attended smaller churches that never reached that level of intimacy and connectedness as I found there.
We all need a small town: a community of diverse people where we live, and with whom we take the time to develop relationships.
You can live in a city with millions of people, but you can create your small town by getting to know neighbors, shopping at the stores just down the road. When I lived in the big city, I got to know many of the shop owners near my house. I chose to shop at those stores and frequent the independent cafes rather than go across town or shop/eat at corporate chains. Even though I’ve moved away, I still connect with some of those store owners from time to time, because despite being in a big city, I filled it with small-town relationships.
You’d be surprised at how small, yet how deep and big your life will get when you search for your small town within your current situation. The truth is, we all want to go somewhere where people know us, know our name (Cheers, anyone?) and we get that by going out and learning other’s names first and making them feel as special as we want to feel.
Here are a few ideas to help you create a “small town”, no matter where you live:
- Go outside to say hello to the mailperson.
- When any delivery driver stops at your house, go to the door and say hello. Leave cupcakes sometimes (They’ll become your friend, fast!)
- Eat at locally-owned restaurants that are within walking distance/a short drive and talk to the owners/employees.
- Find a church that’s actually in your neighborhood versus across town.
- Start a homegroup/housechurch/book club with others who live nearby.
- Host a Shabbat Dinner or game night every Friday night and invite your neighbors.
- Visit the coffee shop closest to you every week.
- Make a weekly date night, on the same night, to the same ice cream shop or bakery.
- Walk down your street every day, not only for exercise but to wave at and talk to neighbors.
- Volunteer at a local community center, senior center, library, etc.
- Find the closest orchard/farm/market and buy from them.
The point is to do life within a short distance of where you live as much as possible.