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Katz’s Deli, New York. Photo by peasap (http://www.flickr.com/people/peasap/).

This is the first part of a two-part series on the notion of “community.” I’ve come across a couple of examples in the last week so this topic is on my mind.

I listened to “The Other People” podcast with author Susan Straight, which made me think differently about “community.”

Straight, the author of Between Heaven and Here, talked mostly about her town of Riverside, California. I don’t know much about Riverside, only that it’s near Los Angeles. I will admit that as a lifelong Midwestern girl, I lump everything in southern California in with Los Angeles. And when I think of Los Angeles, I think of a migrant-type of population, people who have come from other parts of the country or world, chasing the glitz and glamour that L.A. promises.

Straight’s interview with Brad Listi was so enlightening because the way she talked about Riverside reminded me of my hometown of Waseca, Minnesota, and my long tenure in nearby Mankato. She talked of going to the drugstore and seeing people she’s known since she was five years old. She talked about neighbors and relatives who pulse through her house night and day. She’s so never alone that she has to write her books in her car. She talked about going to a high school football game where her daughter was homecoming princess and all the relatives that showed up.

I just didn’t picture this type of life on the fringes of L.A. But I’m grateful it happens. I think of Straight’s daughters and how fortunate they are that they grew up surrounded by friends and relatives. I believe it does take a village to raise a child. A vast network of friends and relatives can prop us up.

I went to the mall on Friday night and spent a great deal of time talking to:

  • A teacher/coach who plays in my fantasy football league
  • The guy who owns a local music store
  • A former student of mine

What was intended as a quick trip to the mall took a couple of hours. But after working at home all day and not seeing a soul, the conversations were refreshing.

Does this describe your community? If not, do you miss the small-town atmosphere, the offhand connections that can happen when you go out in public?