In thinking about my broken ankle last year, (which is often because it never healed right), a beautiful memory also came to mind. And along with it, the reminder that even bad experiences can bring good. And sometimes even bring the most special of blessings.
Like the beautiful rose that my broken leg brought! Which often makes me meditate on the benefits of community. Especially in small towns, like ours. Or as our 6-year old granddaughter puts it, “Where everyone knows me!”
She and her 8-year old brother were heartbroken when their family moved from our village to northern Italy. This was home, where everyone knows them. At least according to them, and they’re pretty much right!
A shrunken down world somehow seems safer, more embraceable. And that’s reassuring, especially to little children. But while sometimes safer and more tranquil, village life also has its downsides.
Because such a shrunk down world is, in some ways, also more complex…
The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world…. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us, (G.K. Chesterton).
Because in smaller towns, we don’t get much choice of companions. We didn’t get to pick our neighbors. Nor the shop owners. So what a blessing that, all in all, we got some pretty good ones!
Here in the village we have to take the paesani as they are:
- The neighbor who blasts his music.
- The one who runs his rototiller at 6AM.
- The little old woman who tries to keep us talking on the street ALL DAY.
- The bachelor brothers who seem sure that saying hello will cost them something.
- And the market stand woman whose behavior clearly shouts, “You’re not going to buy it? You looked at it, didn’t you?”
Everyone knows your business. Where you shop, what you buy, and how much your electric bill is. Well OK, not the electric bill…but they’d like to know!
Annoying things happen everywhere, but they somehow seem amplified in tiny towns.
Not seeing much else, they get blown out of proportion. In larger towns, it’s a different story. If a shopkeeper is rude, we find another shop. If a certain person annoys us, we just avoid him. But there’s no getting away from it here. Which has it’s benefits, because we often discover the problems which cause the behavior.
- We learn that so-and-so is often crabby because of her problematic kids.
- That the shopkeeper worries she might have to close down.
- That the bachelor brothers are just afraid of everyone. (But they do smile at us now!)
- And maybe one day we’ll learn why the grumpy market woman never smiles. Perhaps she’s just forgotten how.
But one of the biggest benefits we’ve learned from small town living is that developing the close contact of real community can help us learn patience, and become more understanding. And hopefully, show us opportunities to reach out with love, help, compassion, and care, as well.
And we can build real community anywhere: in a village, a city neighborhood, or in a church, a school, or work place. It just takes getting involved. Getting to really know others. And seeking ways to reach out and help.
And another special benefit is when others do the same for us!
When Mario told the folks at the pizza shop about my broken ankle, shortly after it happened, they all sent their greetings, and a beautiful little rose, taped to my pizza box, to cheer my days.
Yes, small town living comes with an unavoidable community. Rude shop owners, noisy neighbors. But it sometimes comes with special little gifts too. A greeting, a smile, and a fragrant rose. Those are just a few special benefits we’ve found in small town living!
And that rose, especially, reminded us that it’s in the midst of thorns, that we find the roses!