As I write this, I’m sitting on a bed in a non-smoking room (which someone totally smoked in at some point) at a La Quinta Inn in Nashville, Tenn. I’ve just finished up a four day conference and am enjoying some time to process what I’ve experienced.
One thing that frequently happens at conferences like the one I’ve been at is people ask me, “Where are you from?” When I say Marion, Kan., they look at me with clouds in their eyes. When I tell them it is an hour northeast of Wichita, they still have no idea what I’m talking about.
Then when I tell them it is a town of 1,800 people, they are really shocked. One person asked me, “What do people do for a living there?” as though it is impossible to have a viable economy with so few people.
Eventually when people would ask where I was from I would simply say, “I live in a small town in Kansas.” That seemed to suffice as it allowed the people asking the opportunity to not demonstrate their ignorance regarding Kansas geography.
One of the thoughts that always crosses my mind when I drive through a city like Nashville, or Baltimore, or Tucson, or any other city for that matter, is that it would be so hard to make a noticeable difference in any of these places. The sheer amount of people, need, and anonymity seem to me to be a recipe for people to disregard their neighbors or ignore situations that are outside of their circles of experiences.
We are in an altogether different setting. When we disregard our neighbors or aren’t aware of situations around us it is because we make a choice, conscious or not, to not engage in the lives of others. Our community is simply too small to claim ignorance or anonymity.
Being a small community is not a bad thing. It is a wonderful blessing of which each one of us is a part. I saw a great quote recently, I won’t get it exact, but it went something like this, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, think of a mosquito in a bedroom at night.”
None of us are too small, too old, too young, too tired, too weak, too busy, or too whatever excuse you want to use, to make a significant difference in our community. Indeed there are groups of people you could get involved with; Circles of Hope, the food bank, Kiwanis, a local congregation, or a number of other groups.
Or you could blaze a trail and go out on your own and make a difference. As the seasons change, you could help a neighbor get his or her yard ready for winter. If you are handy at projects around the house, you could help someone who isn’t. If you are able to encourage, write a letter to someone who you think needs encouragement.
We are too small — too small to sit idly by while members of our community are subject to our conscious or unconscious decision to not get involved, to not get our hands dirty, to not make a difference. The simple truth is that because of our size, the results of our efforts, or lack thereof, are magnified and they are more immediate.
A community is never stable, it is always improving, or crumbling. Where are we as a community? Where do we want to be? We are the ones that will determine our future. Let’s take pride in the community that we are because we know the community we can be!