Lessons from a small town

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by Stephen Smith, Major –

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, a city of over 500,000. Since graduating from high school, I have lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif.—never in a small town. But 29 years ago I married into a family with strong ties to a small town in Washington State named Methow. This was where my wife’s grandmother lived most of her life, and it was a town that we would visit many times over the years until her death at age 98.

Methow had a post office, a small volunteer fire station, a store that was open sometimes and other times not, and a church. O, by the way, the population was 37. Like any other small town, I am sure that they had their problems, but I was always impressed with the way the people took care of Grandma Dunbar. The following three stories illustrate this point.

One year, a 6-year-old girl decided that their town should have their own Fourth of July parade. So she began organizing the event as best she could. While I wasn’t present at that time, I have seen pictures of this first-ever Methow parade. In the photographs I saw a few kids with bikes, a decorated child’s wagon and, I believe, there were a few tractors. That was it! What struck me, however, was that the town’s people decided Grandma Dunbar should have a place of prominence to view the parade. Summers in Methow are very hot, so a few caring people erected a canopy in a prime viewing spot just for Grandma Dunbar so that she could watch the parade and be shielded from the sun.

On another occasion, Grandma Dunbar was unable to get to church due to heavy snowfall, even though the church was only about 100 yards away from her front door. So, a few enterprising church members attached an additional speaker to the church PA system. They uncoiled the wire with the speaker attached and ran it across her snowy lawn and into her living room. She was then able to listen to the sermon and the singing and enjoy the Sunday morning service.

My final story has to do with Grandma Dunbar’s passing. The town has one small cemetery, but no funds to maintain it. The whole place turns into a dustbowl during the summer. So when a person dies, someone has to mow down the weeds, water the ground and make sure that the cemetery is looking good for the burial. When Grandmas Dunbar, died a gentleman from across the river took the responsibility to prepare the cemetery for her committal service.

All three of these stories really are about people caring for one another. It was evident that Grandma Dunbar was loved and cared for by the people of Methow.

I like to think of the College for Officer Training as a small town where people, not only know each other, but care for and take care of each other as well. Couldn’t we also say this about each of our corps? What if we thought of each corps as its own small town? Would that change the way we care and treat each other?

In Acts 2:42-47 we read of the early Christians and the fellowship that they experienced. They truly were a small town of believers who cared about each other. Verse 44 states: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone who had need” (NIV).

How many of our congregants have needs that could be met by others in the congregation? We can learn from the example of the early believers and help those among us.

In verses 46-47 we catch a further glimpse of what it was like to live in this small community: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”

What we see here is that the early believers not only met together regularly, but they enjoyed themselves in the process! One of the observations that I have about Methow is that the people come together often for various reasons and they enjoy each other’s company.

God has entrusted us with each other to enjoy, care and love. Small town America—it’s a wonderful thing!

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