I’ve been the pastor at Bethany for a little more than a year now. And after a year working in this community, I still wouldn’t have thought of Longview-Kelso as being small towns. It’s smaller than Seattle or Portland sure. But after a month of living here, there may be more of that “small town” life than I realized!
My husband and I were so excited to finally move to Longview. After commuting 40 minutes one way for the last year, my now 14 minute commute is incredible. Not to mention, it feels like we can finally start setting down roots.
And yes, the fitness classes I was taking in Vancouver didn’t have a studio here, but Longview and Kelso still feel like busy suburban towns.
Until we had some friends visit from Seattle.
And so during our visit, I regaled them of our first experience attending Longview’s “Squirrelfest”. I explained what squirrel bridges were (suspension bridges built across streets so squirrels can safely cross). Our friends were shocked to hear that there were groups that cared for orphan and injured squirrels.
My response? “Well..I’m not sure really, they just do. It’s important I guess.”
Then after more questions than I knew how to answer, our friends asked us what our plans for the upcoming week were.
And so I told them, “Well, we’ve got work and baby stuff of course, and then before we head up to Seattle Greg’s baking cookies and we’re going to try to take cookies to all of our neighbors.”
“No you’re not.”
“Well…yea. We want to get to know the people who live around us, and it’s a small cul de sac, we probably only have 8 or 9 houses that actually have people in them.”
“So you’re going to knock on people’s doors, and then TALK to them.”
More shock from our friends, “Well, this small town life sure sounds interesting! Squirrelfests, cookies, what else?”
“…There’s a Highlander festival soon coming up, and our church is going to have a booth!”
Needless to say, our friends who haven’t lived more than a few miles from Seattle’s city center in the last decade were…entertained by our so-called “small town life”.
But for us, it’s come naturally. As a pastor, I’ve wanted to be more involved in our community, and now we finally have the chance.
And hey, all those cookies we brought to our neighbors paid off! (not just because some neighbors were out and I got to eat cookies for dinner) Our neighbors have brought us some delicious tomatoes and while we were out of town brought in a package from our front porch.
This small town life in a not-so-small town
So maybe Longview and Kelso aren’t teeny tiny towns, but leaning into this “small town life” as my city friends put it has been a tremendous gift. Not only does it make a difference in my ministry, in our ability to reach out to our community in real and important ways. But in our own personal lives we have been given this gift of “small town life”.
Which is really to say, we’ve been given the gift of a community that we can participate in. We’ve been given the gift of a community where we can be known. Even when this gift means running into people at the grocery store when we’re still in our pajama pants!
What kinds of community are you a part of? What are some “small town” features of living where you do now? (whether that be a small town or a big town) What are some ways you can know your neighbors and be known?