The Essence of Community

Living in a very small, semi-rural town is important to me and I can’t imagine ever embracing big city life. I grew up one town over, although that town has changed dramatically since 1960 when my parents bought my childhood home. I believe the planners call it urban sprawl. Fortunately my current small town has nowhere to sprawl as we sit surrounded by established communities so we work with the space we have.

We’re definitely small…

I admit that some of the rural touches can be a bit cliche, like the most exciting thing about this community is the high school sports teams and marching band who (the band anyway) practice up and down my street all the time, or the fact that we literally have only 1 grocery store and 2 gas stations- one of which is attached to the grocery.

We have awards from the Arbor Day Foundation for consistently planting new trees every year for a 20 year stretch. We have a walk-able town center full of quaint shops. We do parades for almost any reason you can imagine. Summer gives us small arts festivals and markets plus a concert in the park series. Rhubarb and daffodils used to dominate much of the valley.

We do not live in a bubble though so yes we have crime, and sadly it is growing. We have housing issues, as in affordability for seniors and those of lower income so that also means we have our unhoused and a large community food bank. Many want to keep the town small. Our city government is trying to balance that request with an ever growing industrial area on the outskirts of town that has replaced all the farm land. In short, we have great small town charm and lurking bigger city issues.

…but the people are awesome

The best thing though is that we have truly nice, friendly people in this community, and the community recognizes them for their interest, dedication, service, and attitude. This concrete bench and broom sits just outside City Hall and down the sidewalk from my apartment. I am not surprised that Mr. Hyland was remembered in this way for what he gave to the community and I feel certain that his love of this town went beyond his work.

A previous mayor, who held the office for many years and who became known fondly as Mr. Sumner (our towns name) passed away just a few years ago. He was famous for riding his three-wheeler around town rain or shine. He would say hello to anyone he passed. He would even start up conversations as he approached, never stop pedaling, and then move on down the street looking for the next person to greet. I had quite a few early morning, very brief conversations with Mayor Goff. I expect to see a memorial for him somewhere nearby in the future.

In happy news I think we may have a new sweeper in the works. I’ve noticed a gentleman, on foot with a rolling trash can and grabber tool roaming the streets when I walk. While a bit more low tech than what Mr. Hyland probably used, this man whoever he may be, is giving back to his community in an awesome way. I don’t see him often but I do have to remember to say thank you the next time I see him because that’s what we do here.

…and we have a way of connecting

So many regular folks will never be recognized in the way these two men have been. Most of us simply become familiar to each other as we walk, shop, frequent a cafe or stop for coffee. I am so appreciative for the sense of belonging I feel living here. There is a closeness that speaks to the past and tight knit communities. I freely admit I would love to have a great art museum or theater close by rather than having to drive into the city to experience a broader world view yet I would never make the trade-off needed to do that. I remember 6 years ago finding my small apartment and saying that it felt like home never knowing how true that would become.

No one here is extraordinary, at least that I am aware of. We have landed in this place for many reasons. When I began writing this post it started as a simple way to highlight some of the things I find endearing and special about my (new) home town. Yet Vicki recently published Creativity of Being, and I find even more meaning when reading her words. If you haven’t read her post, I hope that you do so because it looks beyond the obvious definitions of creativity. Some of her insights include:

“A baby epiphany,” as she called it, noting that “I think one of the under-recognized aspects of creativity comes as a result of harnessing the ingenuity of BEING.” I apply that to understand that the people here in my town are present, engaging and aware. We exist with the intent to be present for others.

“I yearn for the futureโ€ฆthe coming attractions of lifeโ€™s storyโ€ฆ but the past also draws me in. I want one eye on the past to summon wisdom from prior experience, but I also want to focus on the future to predict possible outcomes.” I think even a space like my small town can exemplify this concept. We are a mix of past and future embracing traditions yet planning for what is to come. The people who live here blend both the old and the new.

And finally Vicki shared words on “symbolic immortality” or how people, and I will stretch that idea to spaces as well, leave a mark on the world. Something as simple as a genuinely kind smile or greeting, a friendly hello, or a momentary chat with the owner of the friendliest Shetland pony size dog I’ve ever seen has created moments of knowing and connection…and laughter while trying to stay upright as the pony dog leans in to be scratched.

People create community by being and by sharing themselves with each other often in superbly simple and small ways viewed perhaps by some as inconsequential. I wonder if our Sumner Sweeper Tim Hyland, or Mayor Goff as he rode around town, ever really thought about the legacies they were creating? There is reciprocity between people and their communities- mutual creation if you will.

It seems important to me to pause and to actively think about what I create within my community not for any recognition, but because I want to feel that connection and help it to grow.

27 thoughts on “The Essence of Community

  1. Your town sounds a lot like our little town. Can’t imagine living long term in a big city, although I would do so if I had to So much about this post I can relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly Doug, I think about you a lot living where I do. We are missing the farm lands now, which is so sad, but this is what I picture your community to look like. I also see the people as being very similar in their sense of connectedness. I know that because I know the sort of person you are and where you would place yourself and be the most happy and productive.

      I’ve often wondered- do you plan to leave the farm to any/all of your kids or grands maybe? Do any of them have a desire to follow in your footsteps so to speak? And- how are the hives, or was it down to just one, or maybe a few? – I can’t quite remember.

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      1. Never say never right? ๐Ÿ™‚ I have no plans/ intentions to EVER move again. period. But you never know, sometimes life has a way of flipping those intentions completely over. Years ago now, I did move away to the east coast..5 years actually, to pursue schooling, so I know I have it in me to move….When it comes to following the kids…we actually had this very conversation a few weeks ago, in an adult small group we are a part of. Everybody’s circumstances are so different, (our friends have just one daughter,she moved to Nashville area, and wants her parents to come live in her area so she can better help them with their health issues (they are mid to late 70’s) Fruitful discussions for sure. I am a homebody. love to tinker right where I am at. I see our little place as my own personal laboratory. The bees,thanks for asking…I ended up with 2 hives that made it through the winter (can’t remember what I went into the winter with..I think it was 4) So I have two viable hive, plus I just bought a third nuc (that’s short for nucleus) with a young queen, 5 frames of brood, pollen and honey.) they go for about $180 a pop. There is just something powerful about working with tens of thousands of bees. My youngest son with whom I work, more and more reminds me of myself. It is crazy to watch his interests bloom in similar directions, it has been so satisfying as a parent to pour some of my hard earned life experiences into him. I absolutely refuse to tell him what to do, but I will occasionally give him suggestions. It’s a standing joke between us…I hate to deprive him of an education. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Thanks for asking! DM

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  2. What a beautiful post, Deb! I love how you led us on the tour of your community and your beautiful tie in to Vicki’s wisdom. The sentence that really stuck with me is “People create community by being and by sharing themselves with each other often in superbly simple and small ways” – thank you so much for sharing yourself in this wonderful post. A great example of how we create online community – sharing one thing at a time! ๐Ÿ™‚ โค

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    1. Thank you Wynne! I really believe that sentence is true, and it can happen anywhere if people are willing to reach out to each other in those small ways. I just happen to prefer, and think it’s easier to do it in a smaller community. Now that I write that last part I believe the same about being online and a part of the blogging community. I love helping HoTM grow and hopefully become the vision that you and Vicki want to create, but honestly (and I think you know this already) my writing on the personal blog has never been about numbers and followers. I really value the connections I have with the core group who often know me better than I know myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh goodness…so much goodness ๐Ÿฅฐ here in this one line, Deb: “There is reciprocity between people and their communities- mutual creation if you will.” Gosh, I feel that. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m feeling the joy. xo! ๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’“

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I see that more and more Vicki, both in real life but also in (as Wynne pointed out) our online community here as well. Shared goals and ideals can be very powerful indeed ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As Wynne noted, this line also struck me: “People create community by being and by sharing themselves with each other often in superbly simple and small ways viewed perhaps by some as inconsequential.” So often, people get caught up in big, grandiose dreams and endeavors. While that’s all well and good, we must be mindful not to become so hyper-focused on the big picture that we overlook those small interactions. They really do make a difference… I can recall numerous moments when a stranger smiled just when I needed it. Though I haven’t erected a memorial in their honor, they matter… and in whatever small communities we may be a part of, we matter, too. Such a beautiful, brilliantly written piece, Deb. Thank you for sharing!! ๐Ÿ’“

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    1. Thank you for those kind words Erin! I agree that we often have this image of making a difference as being big and grand and out there for everyone to know about and that’s so often not the case at all. The simplest kindness or acknowledgment can do so much is one of the reasons I am so thankful to live where I do. People are aware of each other here. I value that. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I agree with the others Deb, this is lovely. I love the sense of community you’re describing in your post and feeling loss that we don’t have something like this where I live. Living in a tenement flat in Glasgow, at least where I am, there is no real community. Hold on to what you have and cherish it as you do

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    1. Oh Brenda, that makes me sad that you don’t feel you have that connection. I said to Wynne that I think it’s possible to create those feelings but it does take huge efforts when you live in larger/busier spaces, or even with those who don’t want the same level of connection. I love though that you are creating those connections online, with your blogging! You are reaching across the entire planet- that has to feel remarkable and I hope give you pride in how you have chosen to extend yourself outward towards others ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful words about your home! It is the perfect size while being close to other bigger (or even smaller) cities. You can get a bit of everything while living in a peaceful and comfortable place. P-town was so different but where I live (Summit-Waller) still has a bit of that rural feel and is also close to downtown, Tacoma, Sumner, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our mutual hometown was always more spread out. I remember as a child thinking I lived in a huge city, never knowing how off I was in my assumptions. And then South Hill emerged…:(

      I’m really, really glad that I landed here 6 years ago. I think it was meant to be and I never would have had that opportunity had I made other decisions. I think it was meant to be ๐Ÿ˜‰


  7. Your small town sounds lovely. We live in a small-sized city and while itโ€™s quieter than the very big city 60 miles away, it is still very busy. Urban sprawl is definitely a concern and much of the surrounding farmland has disappeared. These days the trend is to build โ€œup not outโ€ so skyscrapers are popping up all over the landscape. I understand it helps to contain the sprawl but it definitly take away the small-city feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Michelle, I know when space is limited the city governments decide to go upwards. We are slowly experiencing that here with apartment construction in the 3 story range or shops with 2 levels of housing on top. Apartments are a fairly new concept for this little town so they are moving pretty slowly with these changes.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. How lovingly and tenderly you created the mood of your small town, Deb. It couldn’t come at a time more needful of community, affection, and gratitude. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dr. Stein. I’m very glad you could get the feel of my little community from my words. It is genuinely a lovely place to live.


  9. Profound advice for all of us – “It seems important to me to pause and to actively think about what I create within my community not for any recognition, but because I want to feel that connection and help it to grow.”

    Liked by 1 person

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