Growing up in a very small town, the ‘it takes a village’ mentality was ever-present, if not always appreciated by me. As a teenager, all I could think about was getting out of that town, escaping. And that I did. I lived in large towns and cities and gargantuan cities across the world before one day, out of nowhere, oh did I miss my hometown. It took another tiny town’s hospitality, Leymebamba Peru, to remind me of the power of community.
For years I had been on the move, until becoming violently sick here, unable to carry on with my groups planned week-long trek, and I was forced to not only slow down, but stop. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the first day or two. It’s a haze of worried faces, coca tea, and brothy soups. My memory gets clearer once I am strong enough to plant myself on a bench in the Plaza de Armas. With no common language, we communicate through smiles and self-made sign language. Vast supplies of coca leaves are offered and encouragements to keep drinking tea, keep eating soup are plentiful. People who have nothing to give, yet giving nonetheless.
Overwhelmed, appreciative and so very grateful, I find myself suddenly homesick, not just for my family, but for my community who possess these very same values of kindness and helping, sharing and supporting.
I never do move back to my hometown but I visit often. When my Gramma dies, I am struck much the same way I was on that bench, by the outpouring of love from the community. Through flowers and food, my hometown rally’s with support and love. Part of me believes this outpouring is a small town quirk mainly done for elderly folk who have lived in town 30+ years.
But then I have kids and I find a new town to call home. Suddenly, almost in a blink, I know names and faces, forge friendships and neighborly chats. We share, recommend, guide and laugh together. We watch each others kids and have each others backs.
Today I have taco soup in the slow cooker, getting ready to deliver it to an acquaintance who lost her husband in a tragic accident. I do not know her well but since our girls are the same age, we’ve been in many a preschool activity together where we’ve chatted, complained, laughed and sighed at the highs and lows of mommyhood.
This past year has been a tough one for our community. Too many unexpected deaths, too many unexpected illnesses. We rally in support, giving what we can, whether that be food, donations, flowers, or hugs.
When your world is crumbling around you, here come your neighbors, grounding you in this currency of support.
Finding comfort we hope, knowing that you are home.