I think there are a lot of things people look for when selecting a place to live; a place to lay some roots down, per se. One of these is leisure activity – what is there to do in the area? Another is the school system – how great are the schools in the area? People wonder about the housing markets, the weather and maybe even how close their family is to them. I think the one thing people don’t ask often enough is: “What is the sense of community like in the area? “
I didn’t realize that I hadn’t thought about this question when selecting my home until this past week. While my parents were dealing with vacations and prior engagements that took them out of town, I was left with the responsibility of taking care of my very active 13 year old sister for over a week. I was given a real taste of what life as a single parent might be like. Well, that’s sort of unfair; my fiancé absolutely made himself present during this journey. But, I had to figure out how to get this child to and from school, to and from basketball practice, and to and from basketball games, all while getting myself to work on-time, making sure the dogs were fed and let outside, and leaving work early enough to take her to her freshman orientation. Oh, and children need food and water, so that’s a thing too.
The sense of community part comes into play here – my neighbor, who has a daughter in the same class as my sister, showed me how important a sense of community really was in reference to where you live, and ultimately, the life you want to lead. This neighbor more than once offered rides and a place to “hang” until I was able to get home from work. And vice versa. When her daughter needed a place to “hang,” or a ride home, I returned the favor.
I had never felt more thankful to live in a trusting neighborhood, with a trusting and giving neighbor, than that week. And here’s the thing: it’s absolutely no coincidence that her daughter and my sister are in the same class – the size of their class is small. There is no coincidence that they are both active in sports – its part of the culture. There is no coincidence that they live within walking distance of my home – the probability of a classmate’s family living within close proximity of us is high because our town has barely 500 people in it and those 500 people live in a town whose mile radius is the size of some shopping malls in New York. This is just the way of life. You see your neighbors at the same restaurant every Friday night. Your kids all go to the same school and play on the same sports teams. Barbeques often involve unsought guests because they could see you were outside and wanted to stop and say hello. Your aunt that lives a few blocks away cleans up your yard on her way home from work because they can see your dog knocked over, and fully enjoyed, the contents of your garbage cans. Tornado sirens send people to the nearest neighbor with a basement to seek shelter. Bands play at the local tavern and bring all of these people together to dance and act a fool. A family has a child who is diagnosed with cancer and everyone attends the fundraising benefit to show support.
The sense of community in this little society is heavy. Everyone wants to just be there for everyone else. This can be overwhelming at times, sure. But when it really comes down to it, a community that feels more like a large family can create a sense of security that I bet a lot of other communities do not have. What they do have, however, are shopping malls and fancy restaurants and that is something I am just going to have to deal with for now.
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