People tend to make wisecracks about living in small towns. Yes, you’ll probably run into someone you know, no matter where you go. It’s especially true in the coastal towns that we call “home” in the summer -- Coos Bay, population around 16,000, and North Bend, about 10,000 strong. But that’s part of the charm.
Last week, at Books by the Bay, a fellow Second Wednesday book group member and I met up unexpectedly. We sat at our own tables, each of us writing in a notebook, but then had a few moments for pleasant conversation and book recommendations.
While shopping this morning, I ran into Joe. “Why aren’t you at the gym?” he asked as we stood in the store’s wide aisle and greeted each other. The gym, Downtown Health & Fitness Center, is a hub of the community. We not only work out and sweat, but DH&F is the gathering place for groups of people who have become friends -- and if we don’t show up, inquiring minds want to know why.
The Fitness Center social network extends to outside activities and acts of genuine friendship and kindness. Our hearts are still warmed over the June Zumbathon. It was a highly-successful fund raiser that my friend and fitness center owner Deb Lal and her staff organized to benefit a co-worker who is undergoing cancer treatment.
Things happen in small towns that big-city folks often cannot imagine. My first summer here, I belonged to a writers’ group that met bi-weekly at the North Bend Public Library. I noticed that an upcoming meeting was scheduled for the staff in-service day, when the county libraries would be closed. “No problem,” one of the librarians said. “You can take the key and come on in. Just lock up when you leave.” Handing me the key, she said, “Just bring it back the next day.”
A few years ago, I took my motorcycle to Honda World to have it checked and the oil changed before a big trip. This dealership sells and services both motorcycles and cars. As the service manager wrote up my order, he said, “You must have some errands to do before your trip. Take that loaner out there,” he said, nodding toward a car standing by in the parking lot, “and we’ll see you in a couple of hours.” Next thing I knew, I was wheeling off to pick up some last-minute items. Does that sound like your local dealership?
Two friends, Laurie and Marilyn, both have stories of different mechanics who loaned tools to them. Each was sent on her way with a wave and the trust that she would bring the tools back when the job was finished.
Last winter, my friend Rosalie arrived at the post office window to mail a package and realized that she’d changed purses and had no wallet. The clerk said, “I’ll mail it, and you can bring me the postage next time you’re in town.”
Stories of small town big-heartedness no longer make me shake my head in disbelief. They make me smile, and they continue to renew my faith in the goodness of people.
What’s your “small-town” story, whether it takes place in a large city or in a small town?
~ xoA ~