Moving On

Scan 1When I was seven, my father decided to enroll in seminary to become a minister,  which meant that our family moved from a four-plus bedroom house to a five-room campus apartment.  The apartment was tiny, and had an odd layout because it had been pieced together from single-student dorm rooms.  Our bathroom was dormitory style, complete with a toilet stall, and our kitchen had no sink.  We lived there four years, and for that whole time, my deepest desire was to move back to my old house.  Even now,  I still have fond memories of living in that house, and feel a twinge of longing whenever I’m in my old neighborhood and drive by it.

So when I heard that my old house was going for sale, my first thought was that I could actually buy it now (if I could talk my husband into it) and move right back in.  For a while, it was exciting to realize that I was finally in a position to make one of my strongest childhood dreams come true.  But it wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t really want to move back there anymore.

It’s still a wonderful house, with bright and spacious rooms, hardwood floors and lots of original woodwork, and it’s going to make somebody a fabulous new home.  But I’m no longer the kid living in a cramped apartment and longing to return to her former home.  I’m all grown up now (and then some), and am quite happy in the house I’ve been living in for the past twenty years.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that moving out of that house wasn’t quite the tragedy I remembered.

It was tough to downsize as drastically as we did, to have to give our beloved dog to family friends, and leave my familiar neighborhood behind. But moving to seminary housing meant I had a huge campus to roam, and a constant stream of new friends (sometimes from other countries) as the families of new students moved in.  And after my dad graduated, we moved to rural Kansas were I learned first-hand what small-town life is like.  That was a hard adjustment at first, but it was also where I finally got the horse I’d always been wanting and where I made strong friendships that have continued to this day.

I have moved many times in my life, sometimes through choice and sometimes from necessity.  And there was a time when I thought my life would have been so much better if I had just stayed in one place, and been spared the pain of leaving friends, family, and familiar surroundings behind.  But I have come to realize that there was something good that came from each move, and that each and every place I have lived has helped shape me into who I am today.

Life is often referred to as a journey, and I believe that is a good description.  Sometimes my path has been smooth, and sometimes it’s been rocky, but either way, it has led me to exactly where I am now.  From the hard times, I learned that I was much stronger and more resilient than I had ever realized.  From the good times, I gained beautiful memories that will always be with me as I forge ahead.  All of it had a hand in shaping the person I have become, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

ScanThrough a series of happy circumstances, I was invited to visit my old house the other day, and got to walk through all the rooms I remembered so well.  It was a wonderful, if slightly surreal, experience.  I still love that house, and I think I always will.  But I won’t try to go back to it.  It’s someone else’s turn to live there now…..

Lessons From A Small Town

When I was eleven years old, my family moved from St. Louis to a small town in central Kansas.  Adjusting to small town life was hard at first, because it was very different from what I was used to, and I wasn’t particularly happy about moving so far away from my friends and family.  But being eleven, I had only two choices:  be miserable for the next few years or adapt to my new life.  And so I got used to it, and soon came to appreciate the gifts that come from living in a small town.

Scan 7One of the first things I noticed about life in a small town was that everyone knew almost everyone else, if not by name, then at least by sight.  Which meant that when you passed someone on the sidewalk, you acknowledged them in some way.  A simple nod or “hello” would do if you didn’t have time to stop and chat, but hurrying on by as if you didn’t notice the person was considered rude.  The same thing was true if you were driving a car.  People waved at each other as they drove past, even if it was nothing more than simply lifting the index finger off the steering wheel.  No one was anonymous, and everyone deserved recognition.

Living in a small town also taught me a thing or two about trust.  I was amazed to discover that I could walk into almost any store along Main Street and make a purchase simply by signing my name.  It was common practice for stores to accept credit on an honor system, which meant that the clerk would make note of the amount owed, and the next time one of my parents came in, they paid up.  I used credit for an after-school snack, or to pick up something my Mom needed to make dinner, but I knew some of the poorer families in town depended on that credit for the times they truly couldn’t afford to pay.  Small towns tend to take care of their own.

My small town didn’t have different neighborhoods for the rich, middle class and poor, and so we all intermingled at the stores, schools and churches.  I learned to get along with all different kinds of people, because you think twice about making an enemy of someone when you know you are going to be seeing that person on a regular basis as you go about your daily life.  Of course not everyone was good friends with everyone else, but when disaster struck, the community came together very quickly.  I still remember the funeral of a high school friend being held in the school’s gymnasium because none of the seven churches in town had a sanctuary big enough to hold everybody.

I am fifty-eight years old, and I only spent seven of those years living in a small town.  I’m not sure exactly what percent of my life that works out to be, but I am sure it’s a small one.  Yet those years had a profound effect on my life, and I credit them with many of the things I have learned along the way about trust, diversity, tolerance and most of all, community.  I guess that old saying is right, and that it really does take a whole village to raise a child.