Monday, June 25, 2007

I used to be a pastor in a small town


... a really small town. The sign seen upon entering the town said, "Population: 90", but it was really 63 people. I learned that because once when I went to vote in an election, we counted all the houses and who lived there. And we came up with 63 people who lived in the town.

My neighbors across the street used to comment sometimes, "Usually you turn on your lights at 7:00, but today you didn't turn them on until 7:30. Are you all right?" Once, on Monday one of the farmers who came to the post office for coffee and doughnuts said, "I saw you leave town yesterday. I thought you were going to turn left. But you turned right. Where'd you go?"

That was in the days when I still had a red Mazda, pretty rare in our neck of the woods. Later on I bought a blue Buick, thinking I would be harder to spot. (However, the day I got a speeding ticket, and the school bus drove by just as I was being ticketed, everyone knew what had happened by the time I got home. A little girl waved to me from the bus.) So the car didn't work as well as I expected. Besides, everyone still knew where I lived.

Whenever there was a fundraiser at one of the schools, there was a steady procession of students to my house. And once, a couple of girls in the town called me frantically, because they needed a ride to the school for a school function, and both of their mothers were working. Another time, a frantic knock on the door brought in a young woman who was hiding from her abusive boyfriend. They lived behind the church.

Now I live in a big city, where people aren't so connected to each other. I think that I can live a more anonymous life. For example, there are millions of tan Toyota Camrys on the road, so people don't know so much whether I am coming or going. I think, anyway. When I go shopping, everybody doesn't know what I bought before I get home.

Lately, though, I've been getting some comments from people who say they see me walking my dog in the morning. They don't wave or honk or anything, so I don't see them. But they see me. And, as it turns out, the next door neighbor -- a nice young couple with a dog, by the way -- are members of my church. We've been having some good, old-fashioned talks across the fence. And yesterday, my extended family and I went out to a local steak house. As soon as I walked in the door, I heard voices, "Pastor!" Two of the young people from my congregation were the greeters. One is entering college this fall. Our waitress was also the granddaughter of members of the congregation.

Maybe I'd just better get used to it. From now on, I'll never really be anonymous -- blue Buick or tan Toyota, dark glasses or clerical collar.

Or, it's just about time for a vacation

12 comments:

kim said...

Oh my gosh, your post brought me right back to my teenage years. My family moved to Lakeville in 1968, long before it was what it is today; the population then was right around 2000. When we moved there, I remember my parents telling me, "if you do something wrong, you may as well tell us because in a town this small other people will, and we'd rather hear it from you first." And they were right! In fact, population 63 or 2000, it's pretty much the same; back then, there were times I wished I was having as much fun as it was said I was having--HAHA! And, like you, I have found that the bigger the world gets, the smaller it can be, too. For instance, there are several members of our congregation that I went to high school with--do you believe it? And if you really want to get to know your numbers, cut down a tree or do some house spiffing-up; they come out in droves! The older I get, the more I like it--I like the feeling that there are some people who would notice if I wasn't around. My life is so "boring"--just as I like it--that it makes no difference whatsoever if everybody knows what little business I have. I like that, too. There are some advantages to getting older--HAHA! By the way, is there a Bible Study on Wednesday? If there is, I think I can come...Hope there is!

kim said...

And what I meant was, if you really want to get to know your NEIGHBORS. Because THEY could probably tell you your NUMBERS...HAHA! What is that preview button for again?

Rhiannon said...

I loved that post. Growing up in Washington DC, I knew the people on my street, but that was it. Now I get all warm and fuzzy at the thought of someone calling me to ask about my light-turning habits. Of course this is all in theory, not application. Anyway, I'm new to your blog, but I hope you don't mind if I add you to my "required reading" list.

RevDrKate said...

Oh my, I think we switched lives, only backwards. I used to live in that big city...then moved to this little burg of about 190. The day I went to get a post office box they knew my name already and where I'd be living. It was a little too small there and I moved into the big town (13, 000) where I still find I cannot be anonymous. But I love it. The "saw your car" thing, "Hi, Rev" at the coffee shop, running into familiar and friendly people all over town, it's all part of what charms me. I'm with Kim, notice away!

Jan said...

Nice. I like the thought of people waving though. I hope more wave and smile at you!

Barbara B. said...

Population of my town is about 36,000, and it's difficult to go to a store without seeing a patient or two of mine. This means I should always be on my best behavior! :)

Sally said...

Great post- I've lived in small towns and in Houston Texas- as you say nobody remains anonymous for long! :-)

Pastor Eric said...

I grew up in a town of 1,600 and now serve as a pastor in a town of 3,500. I love small town life. My wife finds it too confining and does not like the lack of privacy. As for me I like going to my favorite coffee shop and when I walk in people look and smile as if they are saying "NORM!" (from Cheers). I like living in a place where every one knows my name.

Thanks for the post. I can definitely relate.

mompriest said...

I lived in a small town when I was in middle school. It was very challenging, not friendly. Even my piano teacher, after 2o years of living there said that she was still considered new in town. yeesh. Luckily I pretty adaptable, so I was ok with the town.

Now I live in a suburb of a BIG city. This is a strip-mall suburb, not "down town" section. Just houses (no sidewalks), strees, churches, and strip malls. It's odd. And everyon lives on 1/2 acre lots so no one really knows one's neighbors. Pull into three car garage, enter house through garage, see no one, speak to no one, stay in the air conditioning (because landscapers take care of the lawn). Now, this is really bizarre. I liked it best in big city or the liberal diverse suburb to the east, where we actually knew our neighbors and walking the dogs was an opportunity to say "Hi" to everyone. sigh. Good for you diane. I think what you have is great.

Serena said...

Love this ... I've lived in small towns and cities ... and, as you say, remaining anonymous is not realistic in either environment. I prefer cities because I am high energy and like to be in the midst of a wide variety of people and things to do and see ... and I still get greeted by neighbors and congregants in my local coffee shop.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

Yep. I laughed b/c I had a red Mazda myself... traded it for a tan SUV...and since then changed again. But truly they keep track of your horsepower!

P.S. an after-thought said...

I was a city girl, moved to a very small town eons ago. I am so so glad that our house can't be seen from the road. But once I adjusted to people knowing who I was, I really liked it here. I wouldn't meet people very well in a city, I know from experience of the first almost-half of my life.

But we dread going to a restaurant, etc. because my hubby is a high-profile person that people want to talk to about their problems, similar to the way people want to talk to pastors. We usually don't go out or we drive 20 miles. He goes to church even though people really bug him there too. People need to realize that you can't be your job 24/7.