There are many advantages and disadvantages to small town life. It is not easy to be in a place with so few restaurants, or no movie theater. I do not like the fact that you have to drive 45 minutes to obtain medical attention, find a book store, or shop at a mall. You have to watch what you say and who you say it to since everyone knows everyone. This can be a problem when you are an “outsider” because you don’t know the family histories of the entire town. However, in my opinion the advantages of small town life far outweigh the disadvantages. Being 10 minutes from at least 5 waterfalls is my favorite, followed by regular parades for different occasions, and lack of traffic most of the time. (I am from Atlanta…trust me Cleveland doesn’t have traffic.) The pace here is slower. And everyone knows everyone. You read that correctly, it is both a disadvantage and an advantage.
For example, since the first of the year our small town has experienced some huge, tragic losses…Edye Schlandt, Betty Jean Fortner, and Taylor Swing, and Cecily Hamilton all suddenly gone. In the blink of an eye. Each tragedy its own unbelievable nightmare. It is now, in these implausible circumstances that the interconnectedness of everyone knowing everyone shines. We rally to each others aid. It doesn’t really matter if you knew each one personally, because if you didn’t know them you know a relative of theirs. I have had the children of both Edye and Betty Jean to my home. And while I didn’t teach either of those as a student, when Taylor was at my school I passed him in the hallway a million times. I feel sure that you feel the same connection to these families as I do, because in a small town we are all family. We celebrate together and we grieve together. We feel the losses as if they are our own…because they are. We all lost some pretty amazing people. Friends, daughters, sisters, brothers, sons, mothers. Like ripples on a pond which spread outward, the circles of their influence go. Four drops in the pond in such a short time create overlapping circles that bump into one another and head off in totally different directions. They intersect and collide. The waves create confusion and disorientation, because our minds cannot grasp the reality of so many losses one after another, after another.
In this instance, we reach for something to stabilize ourselves. Each other. We hold on to our connections, because they are our support when things get hard. They are the foundations of our lives. Our friends bring us food, for body and soul. Our families catch our tears in their comforting embrace. Our houses of faith encourage our hearts as they hold our hands. We join together as we walk through the hardship. We share the pain, making it less for us all. This is small town life; at its best, when we go through the worst.
Sunday there will be a memorial service held at Freedom Park at 6:00 pm so we can celebrate the lives of Taylor Swing and Cecily Hamilton. Everyone is invited. Paper and pencil will be available for you to write messages and memories for the families to keep. If it is raining the service will be held at the high school auditorium. We will grieve and celebrate…together…because that is what small towns do.