I always thought I’d end up living in a small town.
Some sort of cross between Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Walnut Grove and Anne of Green Gable’s Avonlea.
But somehow I ended up here…in a sea of never ending suburbs where one city mashes into the next and you can even find Starbucks inside your local Target.
It isn’t exactly what I pictured.
In fact–it’s more like what I was trying to avoid.
But…I actually do live in a small town.
It takes some effort, but an email from my husband made me realize how much I love where I live.
A while ago, he casually mentioned in an email that his company was asking for volunteers to relocate.
I’m all for trying out an adventure (not sure that’s exactly true)…but his email also included something about GUAM.
I looked up Guam.
It’s a long ways away.
My husband is risk-taker.
I’m very much NOT a risk-taker (that’s probably an understatement).
But I’m working hard to not smoosh his visionary spirit.
So…I gave the cliche “I’ll pray about it”…because that at least bought me a little time to let God work on my heart.
It did get me to thinking about what I’d miss if we moved.
Of course…I’d miss our family. And our close friends. And our church. And the kids’ school.
But it also started me thinking about “my small town”.
The people who are part of our life on a weekly basis, who add so much meaning to the mundane interactions and chores of our daily life.
I’d miss “Mr. Tim” and “Miss Jennifer” at Costco. I’ve known Mr. Tim since back in my teaching days and he can tell each one of our kiddos stories of how he knew them before they were born. Miss Jennifer knows each child’s age, school grade, and she even keeps track of their birthdays. The first thing our kids do when we enter Costco is hunt for sightings of their favorite Costco team members. They’ve followed with us, through our adoptions…and through our loss of Selah. When she died, they even came to her memorial service at our church.
I’d miss our special Janice at Key Bank. When we drive up…the kids all look to see if “our friend” is working. I can’t ever talk them into the drive through because they know that if we go in, she’ll come out from behind the counter and give them suckers and ask them if they passed their most current swim class level. Last week she helped them open their own savings accounts and answered questions like: “If a bad guy comes into the bank and steals the money…will be get our stuff back?”
Also “Miss Elizabeth” at Winco….she told me a while ago that she’s happy she’ll get to watch Lydia grow up. And last year when the kids were sick, she offered to come watch them all so I could get out for some alone time with Jason. She had a doctor’s appointment last week to find out if her cancer is actually gone and I need to get in for my weekly Winco trip because the kids keep asking if she’s “all better now”.
There’s also our “funny gas station man”. We have to go to the same gas station because the kids love that he circles the car and knocks on their windows and makes funny faces at them.
I love the “RiteAid Grandmas”…they know all of Lydia’s new tricks and can get her to perform better than anyone so far. Our friendship formed over a crazy-by-phone-search for battery powered Christmas lights.
And my special friend at the Costco return counter. She’s made me cry before. Her daughter was expecting twin babies right around the time that we were waiting for Selah. Her sweet grandbabies died right around the same time our Selah died. And now her daughter is finally expecting a new little one.
I want to be here when that baby is born.
The list could go on.
All of these people add meaning to our lives. They turn the trivial into something powerful.
And our lives are enriched by their willingness to engage.
And on my part, the connecting is purposeful and intentional.
Partially because I just enjoy going to the same check out line.
I enjoy relationships and know they are a gift from God.
But also because the market, the bank, the gas station, the pharmacy are my mission field.
With four little kids, there isn’t a whole lot of time for getting out and doing formal sharing.
And in all honesty, there are days when I don’t have a single physical sighting of an adult besides my husband.
That is just this stage of life.
But I love the fact, that over time, we can build relationships with people through just necessities-of-life interaction.
And it does take time.
There are days when I do opt for the drive through because I’m in a hurry and don’t want to talk.
There are days when I choose a random market because it’s closer and I’m in a hurry.
But I almost always have a sense that I’ve lost an opportunity when I go that route.
Yes–I end up with the same bag of lettuce. But nothing meaningful takes place.
I miss a chance to invest.
For me…it’s the difference between bringing a magazine to read during basketball practice and making enough eye contact with the lady sitting next to me to prompt a conversation.
I don’t always do it, but when I do…I’m always thankful.
Anyway–Jason’s “Guam email” was good for me. As far as we can tell, God isn’t sending us anywhere at the moment, but the possibility made me thankful for so much about our life and our connections and for the people who are part of “my small town”.
Life is fleeting.
We’ve learned that lesson in the past, but I always need reminders.
I’m quick to opt for what is pragmatic over what is purposeful…
And I’m so far from having this whole thing figured out, but I do know that God can use even those small, simple weekly connections built through casual conversations in the checkout line. These are people that I now care about. They’ve encouraged us and reached out to us and my prayer is that God will help me remember to as I “have opportunity..do good to everyone” so that “they may see my good deeds and glorify God…” (Gal. 6:10, 1 peter 2:12).
Some day, God may send us somewhere else, but for now…this is my small town that I love.