Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Rare Way of Life

Last night I had the pleasure of performing with the Pamlico Community Band.
We live in Pamlico County, NC. It's a small county, and a poor county. Its population is about 13,000. A few wealthy retirement communities with sailboats and big houses snuggle along its watery edges, but otherwise it's rural and rather poor. Surprisingly though, the county has a community band!
I sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. It was fun, and I'm so glad they asked me to do it. The song is set extremely low  for a soprano (singers, I had to do a G-flat below middle C), and I'm not used to being accompanied by a 50-piece band, but it went well.
Oriental's Old Theater is a rare place -- an old building rescued by a few devoted people in the community and faithfully used for all manner of artistic events. Seating allows only about 250 people. It's a small, intimate venue.
But Oriental (and Pamlico County) is a small intimate place.
I was struck last night by the people around me. The place was packed, with standing room in the back. I'd guess that I knew about 75% of them, just to look at their faces -- people I see regularly at the local grocery, or at the farmers' market, or the Bean, or at other local events, or church gatherings, or just walking or biking around town. Quite a few, of course, were personal friends. But all the dozens of others are that rare group these days: neighbors.
I live in a place where neighbors know each other. Not by name. Not by which house we own. We recognize each other around town. We acknowledge that we share the same streets, the same stores, watering holes, parks. We nod in familiarity. But included in being neighbors is an element of trust. I know you, we think, as we see each other. I trust you. In other words, You are not a stranger.
I live in a place where I can go to a concert three doors down from my house, look out from the stage, and know that 75% of the people there are not strangers. I've seen them dozens of times before. Although we may never be on a first-name basis, we're friendly and greet each other. I ask about their dog. They ask how Adam's boat-work is going. I love being surrounded by people who are not strangers. It feels a little closer to the New Earth.
Small town life like this is the stuff of a 1950's movie, but in reality it's rare in American life today. If you live in a town of 1000 people or fewer, you probably are experiencing it. If you live in a town or city of 5000 or more, you may think you have a sense of "small community," but it's really just a fragment of your community -- a wedge, if you like, of people like you.
Small-town life is a treasure, and one I don't take lightly. I'm so thankful for the simple friendliness of it. I don't have Trader Joe's, World Market, Whole Foods, or Starbucks. It's a trade-off. But I think I am richer for possessing a kind of life that urban existence, with all its glitz and variety, cannot touch.

7 comments:

  1. It sounds wonderful! I've never experienced that small town feeling. I live in a huge place!
    Well done on your performance. OOoh, low Gflat IS low.xx

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  2. This is a lovely writing about the blessings of small towns. Leaving Raleigh four years ago was a decision based on our love of all things rural, and we found we had wonderful neighbors as well. We are somewhat spread apart, of course, but we quickly formed friendships. We still go to church in Raleigh. Our son and his family still live there. We're only 45 minutes away, though. It's a different world out here.

    I'd love to have heard you sing!

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  3. I'll take community over shops every day of the week! I don't live in a small town but a small valley; there are about 36 of us here and we all know each other. We don't all like each other but we get along and that's a good thing.
    I can make my own coffee -grin-.

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  4. Your town sounds a lot like mine. :) I love it! We are mainly poor, but are surrounded by lake cabins used by the richer folk in the summer. I'll have to join the community choir one day. I used to be a singer, but my vocal chords haven't had much exercise in a while. My own fault! Being such an introvert I've always let my husband do the visiting while I stood in the background. Without him I'll have to assert myself to get involved in my small town. I wouldn't be anywhere else! I love the bands little invitation to join them! :)

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  5. You are blessed M.K. Not all have that wonderful opportunity. DH and I made a little haven in the over populated area that we live in, right here on our property. There are lots of 'transients' in our neighborhood. We don't 'trust' each other. There used to be a 2 lane road out front, cow pastures around, but not anymore. This is a 'policing' area, so we mind our own business as much as possible. We moved in here in 1973 and there have been oh so many changes all around.

    I've never been to a Starbucks, I make my own coffee each morning.:-) It's a ritual I enjoy. I've been to Trader Joe's once and was impressed at how good their prices are. I do NOT like shopping at all except at the grocery store, Home Depot and garden centers. :-)

    My small community is my online friends who have become very dear to me. I see their homes, their gardens, read about their lives, dreams, hopes, problems. We encourage and pray for one another.

    DH and I dreamed about moving somewhere else, but it didn't work out for us. Learning to be content where we are, has been an ongoing, daily process.

    I always enjoy your stories about your small, peaceful town. You are blessed and I thank you for sharing.

    What an event for you to sing with the band! I would love to have heard that. Did anyone video tape it? Maybe it could go on you-tube? Hint, hint!

    Your town and way of life is like a Norman Rockwell painting. Keep enjoying it.

    Have a wonderful Easter week ~ FlowerLady

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  6. How wonderful to sing with an orchestra and to sing such a fabulous, heart-breaking song. And to sing it to and amongst friends is even better. I know what you mean about small towns and communities. It truly is a blessed way of life.

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  7. OK out of everything I could comment on, I have to say I'm impressed you hit the G flat. Wow! :)

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