Too Much in Common


Per capita, small-town residents know more fellow residents than city dwellers know their community members. While perspectives and political issues are conscious choices, by and large, a sense of community seeps into hearts and minds of small-town folk without decision or weighing the benefits. On the edge of the wilderness, it’s a subconscious necessity that just happens.
The principle extends to a variety of elements in life. For instance, it helps us regulate behaviors like road rage. No matter how crappy someone drives in town, we’re reluctant to flip-off whoever is behind the wheel.
We might know who they are.
On a cold winter’s night recently, residents showed up in droves at a performance by a hometown folk band to celebrate the release of their first CD. T-shirts, promotional pins, posters from previous show dates and stacks of their CD lined the concession table. Band members—who we already knew personally—happily circulated through the fanbase and autographed the liner notes.
The event was a playdate for the entire family, no babysitters required. Elementary school kids snaked their dance line between tables, chairs and ever-shifting pockets of adult conversations. One toddler became so enamored with the band she broke loose and made an appearance across the stage on all-fours until Mom whisked her aside. Pre-schoolers devised forts beneath the skirted banquet tables along the wall. Occasionally, the event center owner made a friendly pass down the line lifting the fort walls and flushing out kids like grouse from a thicket.
For the adults, it was sharing stories face-to-face without Facebook. Laughter was audible, no need for emojis. Compassion was verbal and visual, not expressed through a frowny-face cartoon. Everyone was accountable for their words. While debate from people of opposing views could become impassioned, all were generally civil to each other. They have too much else in common.
In the North, winter talk is obligatory. We had been making good ice throughout fall until that thaw hit in early December. A former co-worker at the party reminded me of the slush the thaw created and how it re-froze to cause dodgy ice. What’s more, even at 20-below, some water will remain open, so be careful.
The band’s CD took four years to produce. The final product was just part of the pleasure. The crowd was full of people versed in knowing devotion to a process and accomplishing a cause. They included owners of established businesses; start-up entrepreneurs methodically crafting achievement; artists who have heard applause or won awards; polar explorers, wilderness guides and dogsled mushers who have physically struggled from here to reach there; and teachers who were among the first to mentor others in developing goals and dreams.
Looking out for each other invites a spectrum of scenarios. The CD release was festive. Similar events might help a neighbor pay medical bills or raise funds for the high school senior class trip to Washington, D.C. Other times, the support is less tangible but no less important. When the firehall siren screams into the sky, thoughts and questions turn to everyone involved. Fire? Car wreck? Weak ice? What will any of them need?
We might know who they are.


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