Written By: Kate
Yesterday afternoon we walked downtown to our local ice cream shop for a scoop. Warm and sunny, the sidewalks were full of young families, couples on dates, and teenagers riding bikes and looking for trouble. The ice cream parlor had recently reopened after closing for the winter, and it was packed. We chatted with the owner, and he asked after my parents, as he usually does. Not surprisingly, he seemed to know just about everyone that walked in the door.
After we finished our treat, we crossed into the downtown park and let the kids run around, saying hi to fellow spring revelers enjoying the balmy springtime breezes and sunshine, before popping into a local boutique for a quick look-around. I left with a new dress, and the smell of faded incense in the air reminded me to sign-up for yoga at the studio next door once the baby is born.
Even as I type this from my front porch, I'm watching runners and bicyclists coast by, mamas pushing strollers, and kids running to the playground caddy-corner from our home. A "neighbor" (a stranger, but a neighbor nonetheless) walking her dog stopped by and asked would you like any hostas for your flower beds? The kindness and openness of this community still surprises me. I love it.
I grew up in a small town that shared some similarities with this one, and especially that everyone knew everyone. But it was a very inclusive and small farming town, mono-culture, and unwelcoming to outsiders. We definitely fell in the later group, of the wrong religious affiliation and ethnic background, and so although my childhood was so stereotypical small town, I never felt welcomed in it the way I do here. And so I moved away as quick as I could and never returned, marrying an Okie, with a touch of scorn for small towns in my heart.
But here we are, nestled in this community just off the commuter rail from Chicago, living just a few miles from the beach (which has become Kirk's new running route), getting to know our neighbors and settling into our diverse and welcoming town. Soon our town will be packed with tourists, here for the Farmers Market, the hiking trails and shoreline, and the local restaurants and boutiques. And I don't blame them for stopping in for a taste of this beach town; likewise, we enjoy the burst of energy tourist season brings to this town.
If all of this sounds like I'm tooting the horn of my own town, it's probably true. But I also believe that there is a place for everyone, or maybe even many places, that can feel so incredibly welcoming and like home. Perhaps for you it's a bustling downtown or a hip, urban neighborhood. Maybe it's living on a homestead surrounded by like-minded agrarians. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to find your place and to wholeheartedly jump into community, cheesy hellos and offering of plants, included.
Do you love where you live or are you on the hunt for somewhere new to call home?