As I sat waiting for a funeral service to begin a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but reflect on the “good” that this person had brought to the world. Although I hadn’t known her very long, I could just feel it: her caring spirit, optimism and faith. With a church full of family, friends and acquaintances, I also couldn’t help wondering how many of these people exuded that same aura.
Seeing the “good” in others isn’t always that easy—especially when it comes to small town living. I grew up near a town with twice the population of Petersburg. I don’t remember any of the stereotypical negatives of living in that area, but I do remember leaving for college believing that I’d never be back to a small town. As people close to me married farmers and moved to their family farms, I’m pretty sure I made a promise to never put myself in a position where everyone would know my business and I’d have to pay special attention to what I said, who I spent time with and what I wore.
So it’s no surprise that I had my doubts about moving to Petersburg. Would the “good” in people outweigh everything else? It didn’t take long to find out.
The first few weeks here included attending Mass, running errands and taking my children to day care. No matter where I went people smiled, said ‘hello’ and called me by my first name. It no doubt made learning names more challenging, but it also felt like a warm welcome.
Many of those initial outings involved picking up paint supplies. While I found the materials I needed, I also gained a sense of “good” from the store’s owner. He told me about the town and asked me what brought us here and what we left behind. Rather than feeling exposed, I felt appreciated for giving Petersburg a chance. A few weeks later, he arrived at our home with a job posting that he felt fit my education and experience. While I wasn’t looking for a job, the gesture further exemplified the nature of this community.
A few months later, I was invited to a girls’ night out at the Knotty Pine. I was surprised by the invitation, and went into it with my guard up. But again, I felt no judgment. I also received a piece of advice that I held onto pretty tightly from that point on. “You have to give yourself a full 12 months,” one of them shared. Being somewhat of a newbie herself, I listened. Her good, along with the rest of the group, helped me realize that there’s a deeper sense of community existing in this small town.
Even now, I am constantly reminded of just how much the good of this town outweighs small town stereotypes. Are there rumors? Yes. Do people know everyone else’s business? For the most part. But the commitment to the “good” that’s deeply rooted in this community far outweighs anything else.