Thursday, February 20, 2014

Man about town

Something as simple as finding your favorite cap
can make for a good story to share.

Slap me five, I found my Kromer

Of all the highlights of a small town, one of my favorite has got to be standing in the doorway of the local grocery store to catch up on life with other town folk. You’ve been there before, I’m sure. While walking in you see a face you recognize and are either delighted or obliged to extended a “hey how are ya” greeting. The ensuing conversation can be as short as five seconds or as long as 20 minutes, depending upon what mood the other person is in.

The time varies so much, I think, because folks in a small town have a lot to say to each other. You already know who everybody is, so if you extend the greeting you’re being consciously friendly, at the very least. By expanding from a simple greeting to engage in subjects like the weather, work, or the economy you’re at least expressing an interest in the other person’s opinion - a sign of recognition.

And it can go further than that. If the acquaintance is an old time family friend, or of some distant relation you probably check in on each other’s family matters.

“How’s aunt Susie doing? Does Greg graduate this year already? How are the dogs?”

Have I just aged myself by 30-some years?

I had a chance encounter like this last weekend. Actually, a few of them. I had a handful of events I was running around town to photograph. At a couple of them I ran into people I knew, and in a relaxed Saturday mood felt the urge to catch up on just how things were in their neck of the woods.

After work I ran to the grocery store to grab a few things for dinner and happened upon another old family friend. We got to talking far beyond the regular exchange and swapped a couple stories. These were fun because there was a good amount of humor involved. The punchline in his was an expression shouted out when he found his Stormy Kromer packed away in a box: “Slap me five, I found my Kromer!”

That got me thinking.

Stories have so much worth. In this case exchanging tales from similar experiences helped to enrich a positive relationship already in place. By sharing little bits of our past selves we increase our ability to appreciate and understand one another, and that’s a powerful thing.

Really, this story swapping tradition is a way to build empathy. In a small community where we all must live and work together, the fabric of community must be woven tightly for us to succeed. That means, quite simply, we must have empathy for one another and strive to work together.

It can be a story about finding your favorite old cap, your car breaking down, or something more tragic, doesn’t matter. What matters is you’ve lived through something, and that’s something worth sharing.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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