Small towns… Big hearts

October 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Community, People

I love small towns. I’ve lived in several – in Oregon, Minnesota and Alaska. Unless I was forced to, I’d never live in a big city.

But I’ve been at a loss to explain to other people just why I like small towns. It’s not just the Fourth of July fireworks or the street festivals. There’s more to it. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then something happened a few weeks ago that brought my thoughts into clearer focus.

Our youngest son, 22, got sick – really sick. What started out as burn on his elbow turned into a massive infection. By the time he got to the emergency room at Santiam Hospital, he couldn’t walk, his heart rate was spiking and his blood pressure was plummeting. All in all, not a good scenario.

After a couple days in the intensive care unit and a few more in a regular room, he was able to go home. I won’t go all medical on you about what the doctors did, but suffice it to say that a week later he was back at work. In my mind, it was nothing short of a miracle. But that’s not my point.

My point is that, at every turn, my wife and I found ourselves surrounded by friends and neighbors, many of whom knew us – and others who went out of their way to introduce themselves.

For example, two of the CNAs went to high school with our son. One even had gone to the prom with him. The other brought him flowers and a “get well” card on her day off.

The ICU supervisor was a neighbor. She took the time to, well, just talk, sharing stories about her family and asking after mine. In the hospital lunchroom, the nurses and others asked about our son.

Another former neighbor who worked at the hospital greeted me in the hallway, asking how I was doing.

This was more than I would have ever expected. To me, the empathy was almost as important as the medical expertise. My wife and I, and our son, needed both.

After the infection had subsided and our son was feeling better, my wife and I arrived at the hospital to take him home to continue his recovery. As we reached the door, a young husband and wife were taking their new baby to their car for the first trip home, excited and thankful and full of anticipation. The mom was an acquaintance and the daughter of friends.

Then it occurred to me. In a small town, you really do get to witness the circle of life, the ebb and flow of friends, neighbors and strangers you encounter. Sometimes it’s under the worst of circumstances; other times, it’s the best of circumstances.

In a small town, you have to buy into the concept of neighbor much more readily than in a big city. Unlike life in a big city, you can’t divorce yourself and your fate from the town’s, because every one of us is important. Every town is a tapestry of the people who live in it. That’s true whether you live in Silverton, Mount Angel, Stayton or Sublimity.

We, the people, make a town. We give it that sweet, loving and sharing character.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.