We lived in the city when we first got married. Actually, most people wouldn’t consider it a city, but to this farm girl anyplace with a shopping mall and tall buildings visible in the distance qualifies as a city.
I hated it.
Sometimes, I cried.
After growing up on several hundred acres, town life was way too cramped. My little backyard joined up with four other little backyards. There were people everywhere. Even the parks were crowded. The only place to be alone was in the shower.
When we bought this place and moved, I felt so relieved. It was so nice to sit on the porch in my pajamas and know that nobody would ever be the wiser. I loved being able to take a walk and never leave the property. The stars don’t look the same in the city either, what with all those airplanes flying overhead and the glare of streetlights.
Relocating to the rural countryside where I grew up was such a relief to me. I’m not cut out for city life.
There’s a misconception about rural life, though. One that has taken a while for me to sort out. People often think that communities are much stronger in the country. I thought that was true at first… Now, I’m not so sure that community has that much to do with location, be it rural or urban.
In looking back, I see that we had formed a sort of community when we lived in the city. Our house was the drop-by hanging out spot for most of our college friends. We had also met and developed a good relationship with some of our neighbors, to the point that I was truly sad to leave them. My experience with city living was fairly brief, so I’m no judge as to the extent of community atmosphere found in the city. Besides, I brought my country roots with me and that is a strong influence. Some of you “city folks” will have to let me know about the strength of your community and the love you share for one another.
Once we were firmly planted back in rural-America, I was content to relax in the solitude for a while. But then as time went by, I wanted a larger role in my community. At first, I was a bit frustrated because I wasn’t just falling into place in our community. I grew up around here and have a large network of aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, seventh cousins… once removed. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t automatically have my own special place in the community. Kind of arrogant, huh?!
Time went by. I started building community in a rather silly and simple way. I started smiling at random people. I hated leaving the local grocery store knowing everyone in there was walking around in a fog of their own world, never connecting with anyone else in the store. Mary was a little baby then, so it was easy to smile at people and share a hello. This was a good start. I have kept to my silly habit and enjoy finding that many local store clerks recognize us when we come in. Of course they would notice us coming (go anywhere with 4 small children and people will notice), but what is really great is that many of them know the kid’s names. It may sound like a simple thing, but it makes a difference in the way we care for each other.
We had joined a church by then and found a great community within the community. Our church is a great little country church. We enjoy fellowship around wonderful, fall bonfires and hayrides. The men pitch in together to help fix stuff or cut fire wood for those who can’t do it for themselves. When each of the kids were born, the ladies got together and planned to bring us meals every other night for weeks so that we could spend those days recovering and enjoying our new little one. The community there is really more of a family in so many wonderful ways.
When we made the decision to home-school, the topic of community became a concern again. So much of rural community is based around our schools. To opt-out of the local school system means that we will need to put a little extra effort into making ties for our children in the community. The kids have been in 4H for two years and hope to get involved with scouts soon. We have also become a part of a playgroup that meets weekly.
What I have learned is that whether you live in the city or in “Mayberry,” becoming a part of your community is a process and a privilege that can only be earned over the course of years. Community can happen anywhere, but it doesn’t “just happen.”
Community is something that happens when you are willing to get to know and care about those around you. Community is spending your time and resources locally. Community isn’t about keeping scores for kindnesses shared, but sharing kindness because you care. Community is doing or not doing something because you know it would impact others who live in your community. Community is forgiving folks who make bad choices and caring about those same people while they are enduring the consequences of their bad decision. Community isn’t a place, be it city or country. Community is living life, caring for others around you. Community isn’t a thing of the past, found only in old sitcoms.
Hope you’ll share your own thoughts on community and the ways you are a part of yours. BTW, I love this little “community,” here on the web… Thanks so much to all of you who take a little time to read and share thoughts here. :)