There’s a reason a small town is a small town. It’s because nobody wants to live there.
The foregoing is a statement which I recently read and with which I totally disagree. A more accurate statement might be that a small town is a small town because of a lack of employment opportunities. Another possibility might be that a small town is a place where many people would like to live if it were not for family or career obligations.
Like many of our friends, with retirement came the opportunity to have some of our life dreams fulfilled. How fortunate are those of us who vacationed in northern Michigan and now call it home.
I trudged through the snowy parking lot at Kohl’s on a recent junket to Traverse City. I was on a mission to redeem a cash coupon my wife had received from a pre-Christmas shopping spree. It was going to expire and was one of those use-it-or-lose-it situations.
Another gentleman was entering the building before me. Both of us were anxious to escape the frigid wind. As he passed through the outer door he paused, turned, and held the door open for me.
I thanked him and he repeated the gesture as we passed through the second set of doors.
This act of thoughtfulness would be a rarity in Detroit or Chicago yet is common here.
Last week as I exited the post office in Kalkaska, an elderly lady with outgoing mail in hand, was heading for the entrance. We passed on the sidewalk and our eyes met and I said “good morning.”
She smiled and returned the greeting. My memory of living in densely populated areas is that strangers avoided eye contact with each other. Surely you remember your mother saying, “Don’t talk to strangers!” In our small-town environment, people look at each other and exchange greetings. Can you imagine Andy in “Mayberry R.F.D.” not saying hello to everyone he met on the street?
While on vacation last summer, I received a call from a desperate neighbor. An elderly gentleman had fallen while trying to exit the pontoon boat and could not get up. None of her neighbors were home and the victim didn’t want her to call 911. Thank goodness my neighbor thought of Michael who she had previously hired to do some carpentry repair and yard chores.
She gave Michael a call and he arrived within a few minutes. Not only did he get our friend on his feet, he walked him up and into the cottage. Michael refused to accept any compensation for his good deed. He said he was just being neighborly.
My friends Al and Audrey manage the local food pantry. It is a small operation that assists others within our community who are in need of groceries. Those who require assistance must visit the pantry to pick up the food parcel. Home delivery is not normally a part of our outreach. On rare occasions, people who truly need help will not request it. Whether it is personal pride or embarrassment only they know.
Eventually word comes to the pantry of their quiet desperation and Al and Audrey spring into action. It is hard to imagine that there are refrigerators and kitchen cupboards in our area that are totally empty. Al and Audrey’s service to our community goes far above and beyond the call of duty.
Whether it’s a friendly greeting, giving the other guy a break in traffic, helping someone in distress or volunteering to assist the less fortunate, these traits are common in a small-town environment. Not only does the deed create a feel-good moment for the one who initiates the act of civility, it sets an example for others and encourages the concept of “paying it forward.” As new residents are attracted to our “neck of the woods,” we need keep our small-town customs alive and pass them on to others.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633