I was born in a small town…
If music came to mind, I hope it was the John Mellencamp version that will be playing through your head. I prefer it to Bruce Springsteen.
But I didn't sit down at the keyboard today to wax prolific on the music of my youth (Small town came out my last year of college.) In fact, I was going to shut down the website this week. After all, I no longer need a website, and I felt that the anonymity afforded me in Phoenix made it much safer to blog than I would experience since moving back to Hutchinson, Kansas in April.
Hutchinson is a place where it is not at all unusual to hear a review of your life plans and a recap of how you spent your weekend from an acquaintance you haven't seen for months (or in our case, years) while you're waiting in line at the local supermarket.
This phenomena was very intriguing if not a little unsettling to Mary Charlotte when we first arrived.
"How do they know?" she asked.
"It's just part of living in Hutchinson," I told her. And I reassured her that it was more interest than invasion. Of course, I was having that conversation for my own benefit.
I was born in a small town. Miles City, Montana, has a population that hovers right around 9,000 people. When Greg and I moved to Hutchinson in 1986, to me it seemed big--42,000 people in the city; more than 60,000 in the "trade area." Then we moved to Phoenix and shared the valley with three million friends and neighbors. Hutchinson, naturally, seemed small.
Now, it feels just right. Let me tell you why.
I met Pam yesterday. I was waiting to get my hair done at Hayden's, the local Aveda Salon and Day Spa (see...not so small sounding, are we?) and I sat down in the chair next to her. I realized that Pam was there along with Frank, a man who is mentally retarded who I knew from my years working with TECH. The woman with them was likely a TECH staff member. Frank was heading back to the pedicure area. Pam, as I learned later, was waiting for a shampoo, to have her lip waxed and to have a manicure.
As we waited together, Pam asked me about the book I was reading. I explained it was called My Paris Wife and that it was about the wife of Ernest Hemingway. She said simply, "Oh."
Two or more minutes passed before Pam said, "I like Capote."
Initially, I wasn't sure what she'd said as she was just a little hard to understand. Then, gratefully, my brain caught on to the continuation of the literature conversation.
"Truman Capote?" I said, with a bit of surprise.
"Yeah," Pam said. "Isn't it sad what happened to those Clutter children?" And then she resumed staring straight ahead. She was done visiting.
What resonated with me is not that Pam, an adult woman with mental challenges, reads Capote. What I found significant is that sharing the conversation with her was just part of another morning in a town where lives that are so very different intersect daily in ways that are so very commonplace.
In Phoenix, most of the people who occupied my salon waiting area were nearly an exact reflection of my demographic. To share my daily activities with someone like Pam, I would have needed to volunteer for a program that served adults with disabilities, like ARC of Tempe.
The right-sizedness of Hutchinson enabled me to share an ordinary moment with her, and my entire weekend has been enriched by it.
* * *
That was one of my many Hutchinson blessings yesterday. They happen every day. I will share more with you whenever I sit down next.
And I will sit down to write again because I would miss you if I didn't. Even if it's just a few of us gathered here to think on goodness, that is also, just right. And I'm grateful for this space and for each of you. More than you know.
Photo Credit: Amy Bickel, The Hutchinson News