I knew a lot of people from Eric’s and my life in Beacon: school parents, parent activists, teachers, clergy members, Nathan’s friends’ parents, summer camp parents, and so on. They didn’t visit with me, but when there was a request for meals, they immediately responded with soup or a full plate; when I ran into them on the street or at a party, they smiled a bright smile and gave me a big hug; and when they ran into Eric or talked to him on the phone, they asked after me.
I knew all these people, but my relationship with them wasn’t so deep as to stir up the wish to visit me. It wasn’t deep enough to vanquish the qualms they must have about dropping by and spending time with me. Yet, when Eric and I went to the high school presentation, we ran into the mother of one of Nathan’s schoolmates. As we greeted each other with a hug, she said to me, “You’ve made my day.” Meetings like this one were so nice. They showed me I was cared for – there was so much love surrounding me.
I’ve wondered what caused Beacon residents’ reaction. If we weren’t close, why did they were glad to see me? Why did they show up with platefuls of food? And a potential answer has come to me. In a small town, you spend a long time doing different things with the same people: you run into the same people at the coffee shop, the store, the local market, the downtown street, the activist group, the march against social injustices, and the school yard. And in doing things together, you build a sense of community that prompts you to give, to hug, and to smile.