A Sense of Community
This past week Beverly and I took a short trip to Parsons, Tennessee to see her spry active eighty-seven year old mother. I love taking this trip on so many levels. First of all I love seeing her mom and spending time with her. Her soft Tennessee ways I find comforting as opposed to our hustling and busy life in Austin these days. The other reward is a sense of community I feel while in this small town of Parsons population 2349. The folks in Parsons are very friendly and very open to sharing their life experiences. Everyone seems to know each other or is related in some way and if you are not they make you feel like you are. What amazes me about this is that the little town has been dealing with a tragic event for the last 3 years. Holly Bobo vanished from in front of her home on April 13, 2011, as she was about to go to her nursing school classes for the day. Even though they have never found her body, last month a local young man was arrested for her murder and his trial is in the works. My point of this is that you would think that, in such a small town, it would create a sense of separation and distance to an outsider entering their domain. I found it to be quite the opposite and, in fact, felt a stronger sense of community with people pulling closer together with bonds of faith and strength supporting each other with caring and concern for their fellow man! This is truly a testament to their faith and how bonded this community is in this small Tennessee town. During our stay there, we try to take care of any issues my mother-in-law might have with her property so I get a chance to meet with contractors that are going to perform the work. This year we are going to get the house painted so I met with a gentleman by the name of Nelson Rushing. He is seventy-four years young and still painting houses. I can only pray that at seventy-four, I still am as active and energetic as Nelson. We heard the stories about his broken bones, doctor trips and the likes, but the point being is how he continues to be friendly, outgoing, and a part of the community in every sense. Then there’s Bob Patterson who lives across the street from Mom. He watches each morning to see if her light comes on in the kitchen around 6:00 AM so he knows she is okay, he doesn’t have to do that, but he cares enough to take the time. That’s what I call a sense of community, caring enough to take the time to make sure someone else is okay. Us city folks have been known to have someone pass away next door and don’t even realize it until the stench gets so bad we have to report it! On the day we were coming home to Texas we planned on stopping at the transfer-station (dump) to get rid of some trash. When we pulled into the station a gentleman noticed our plates were from out of state so he walked over to the car and started a conversation. After some small talk, he asked what I thought of their little town of Parsons and did I like it. My reply was swift and well thought out, I replied, “ I love this place, love the people, love the terrain, but most of all the sense of community.” He replied, “It is a great place to live and be from, we have only had one bad incident in all my years here. My niece, Holly Bobo, was abducted and murdered 3 years ago. Sad but we have an even stronger sense of community because we have been brought together by her death. Sure, wish we could find her body and put this in the past.” I got back into the car to leave thinking and wondering if I would have the strength to handle one of my loved ones being taken and still keep my senses about me. I think one thing we should work on improving is our sense of community and how important and vital it is to have the power and support that comes with the closeness communities bring. The old adage that there’s strength in numbers is so true and real. Let’s start by having a neighborhood get together for a meal or social event. Introduce yourself and get to know those that live around you, be more vulnerable and share your inner thoughts and feelings when appropriate. You’ll have you have more in common than you ever thought possible. Live fearlessly, don’t succumb to the automatic lifestyle; life has so much to offer when we live it in faith and fearless passion. You and I are the ones that can rebuild communities where our children and grandchildren can live in and thrive.