Why It’s Nice to Live in a Small Town

Because when Mike passed away this last week people in town knew and cared.

My daughter’s powerlifting coach showed up at the door with a condolence card for Athena signed by every member of the team.

The local library sent a lovely flower arrangement for Mike’s visitation and sent someone to attend the memorial.

When I ordered a pizza last night, the delivery person refused payment and said the folks at the restaurant offered their condolences.

These are small things, but right now small things are meaningful and it makes me glad to live where I do, among these good folks. Thought I would share that.

48 Comments on “Why It’s Nice to Live in a Small Town”

  1. Small town values are part of why I remain an optimist about the USA. I recently gave a funeral oration for a man who had fired me, and whom I had to sue to collect $7,000 of back pay. But that was business, not personal. The man was Treasurer of a small town adjacent to mine (I’m in Altadena, he was in Sierra Madre). He was a good official for his town, supported musical events, supported the library, raised plants that experts said could not be raised in this microclimate, and invented many life-saving medical devices. In a big city, my name might have been on a security list of whom to exclude from the church. In the small town, his ex-wife invited me, and his children and I all had tears running down our cheeks as I pra8ised his virtues. I wish the best to you and your wife, and your families.

  2. That is incredibly beautiful. You are a lucky man in a great family as I’m sure you know. What wonderful acts of kindness.

    (side note: ATHENA’S POWER LIFTING COACH?!?!?! I have never been more terrified and in awe of a 13 year old as I am after reading this.)

  3. I have a congenital medical condition, which required many pediatric hospitalizations/surgeries. I attended a private elementary school. During my time there, whenever I had to have surgery I could count on my homeroom teacher visiting with a big card signed by everyone in my class. By contrast, when we moved out of state and I began attending public schools, whenever I had to be hospitalized I never received a card, and when I returned to school the focus was more on how quickly I could catch up with my peers than on how I was recovering physically. I liken my experience at a private school to your experience living in a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and when something goes wrong, people care. When you move to the “big city” (public school, in my case), you’re just one number among many, unnoticed. Gimme the small town any day.

    My renewed condolences to your family on your loss.


  4. Agreeing completely on the small town.

    My husband’s father died in September, 2008. He was in his 80’s, so it wasn’t completely unexpected, but it wasn’t exactly expected either.

    The day he died, we were sitting at a table in the little diner in the small southern Kansas town where he lived. A stream of people who had gotten the news stopped to offer their condolences and offer their assistance. A man who had grown up across the street from them bought our lunch and asked the diner to make sure we got pie (because pie helps everything).

    A few days later, his friends welcomed us to the daily coffee klatch at the Table of Knowledge (you know the one … where the guys have solved the problems of the world a dozen times over, if anyone would listen to them). Again, we weren’t allowed to buy our breakfast.

    John, you and your family have our sincerest condolences. Please make sure that you treat yourself well over the next few weeks and months. From experience, there will be things that will hit so unexpectedly that you would swear they came from nowhere. And long after you would think that they are done coming at you, something else will hit.

  5. John, my condolences to you and your family; and I’m exceptionally glad your community likes you.

    However, I can’t say I agree about living in a small town. My wife is a Methodist pastor and we’re living in our 2nd small town in 5 years. The fishbowl observation you can get from your parishoners doubles or triples when everyone Knows Your Name. If a dispute arises, the whole town gets dragged into the issue, not just the church members. Its well-known that I’m without a job after this last move, but openings and positions have been mysteriously closed after I apply or I never hear again from employers. Let’s not even talk about how my daughter feels being a Preacher’s Kid and a type 1 diabetic to boot.

  6. My condolences to your family. Your community’s reaction is a great complement to your lost father-in-law. I dont think that it is just the community that you live in. I think it includes the community which you have created online. The power of the those communities together are truly amazing.

  7. I’ve not said it yet, but my condolences on your loss.

    I’m glad your community’s taking care of you. It’s nice to have folks like that around you.

  8. Neighbors reaching out to help each other is one of the best things in the world. I’m glad your community holds your family in its collective embrace while you deal with your loss. My sincere condolences to your wife, your daughter, yourself and your extended family.

  9. I’m glad that you all landed in a generous and caring small town/community and that they’ve ~adopted~ you.

    Much love, hope, and recovery to you all as you navigate life without one of your elder guides.

  10. These are small things…

    Sure they are, but “small things” are all most of us can do – and they can become a whole lot of something. Making a wake casserole that doesn’t cry to heaven for vengeance is a lot easier, and more useful, than trying to make sense of human mortality in fifty words or less.

  11. May those folks reap many blessings for the small kindnesses offered in a time of sorrow. It makes my heart smile to hear of their graciousness so I thank you for sharing.

    I’m sorry for your family’s loss, John. May you all find some peace in the days ahead.

  12. John, Your community is full of Good Women and Good Men. You are one of the Good Ones too. My sympathy to you and your beloved on the loss of your Mike.

  13. Living in a small town does sound nice when you describe it. Having lived in cities my whole life, I’ve occasionally longed for a home far from civilization, somewhere you’d need climbing gear or a camel to reach. But I’ve never been drawn to the idea of living in a small town. It would be too unnerving being a name, not a number…too much pressure. Fear of inadequacy would be a constant companion. In the city, my natural shyness doesn’t feel like a liability.

    Echoing the sentiment of how cool it is that your daughter does powerlifting. I had no idea schools had weightlifting teams. May I humbly submit the idea of martial arts? Just tossing that out there.


  14. My condolences to you and the famiy. It’s good to hear of your great local support.
    As has been said, you don’t get over it, but you do get through it. Best wishes.

  15. May I offer, humbly, my prayer that the peace which passes all understanding be upon you and yours, and remain with you always.

  16. That’s wonderful. I think not every small town would be like that; you have an exceptional one there. And not everyone in the community would be as beloved, I suspect, though I’m sure in a town like yours they’d try.

    Is this the first we’ve heard that Athena’s on the powerlifting team? That was kind of a doubletake moment for me.

  17. I’m sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you.

    I understand what you mean: when my youngest son was struck by a car, we got flowers from places ranging from the library to the vet. We live in a small town that’s considered part of a major metro area, which suggests to me that small towns endure.

  18. I’m so glad for you and your family that you have the support and love of your community. I grew up in a small town, pop. around 200, and it had a great deal to do with shaping how I look at the world. Our house burned to the ground when I was a kid, and within days, we’d been given a house to live in rent-free for the next year, so we could get on our feet again, and also had people showing up with cars full of clothing, toys, furniture, pots and pans, and so on. Since the house had burned down right after Thanksgiving and people knew my mom was supporting 4 kids on what she made at the factory, people also bought Christmas gifts for all us kids, wrapped them, and brought them along so she wouldn’t have to worry that we wouldn’t have a good Christmas that year. They brought bags of groceries, and even pet food.

    This made the biggest impression on me of any experience in my life, I think. No matter how crappy things might have been at some points in my life, I’ve never been able to think people are rotten at heart. I still believe there’s more good in them than not.

    I’m thinking of you and all the family, wishing I could send best wishes and hugs through the air like radio waves.

  19. Stories like this make me feel really butch… cos I cry like something that passes lots of fluid through its eyes.
    I’m an atheist, and on those occasions where I end up discussing comparative theologies (or lack thereof) I often have to let the religious know that being an atheist doesn’t mean I believe in nothing. Rather, I say, it means I believe in people. Usually I like to think I mean it in a Galilean sense – we stand on the shoulders of giants – but times like your post here, they give us a great many other things to believe in them for too.
    Thanks for sharing.
    And of course, you and yours have all of the best wishes that me and mine can offer.

  20. I also live in a very small town (800 people) and this is absolutely true. There are downsides, of course, but they’re far outweighed by the upsides. I grew up in a larger rural town, then lived in the city, and I wouldn’t move back.

  21. My thoughts are with you and your family in this most difficult time. It’s one of those times about which Frost said there is “no way out but through” – nothing really prepares you for it, but the love of those close to you and the little things that show that even strangers want to help allows the burden be shared, survived, and borne more easily.

  22. I’m glad to hear you and your family are surrounded by a community that is supporting you when you need it most.

  23. It speaks well to the standing of Mr. Blauser and your family that you got that support from the community.

    Atheana powerlifting makes her even cooler. People often confuse powerlifting (squat, bench press, and squat), weightlifting (clean and jerk, and snatch), and bodybuilding. I lifted with NASA for two years. At the meets, the people were all friendly and supportive, which is the best that sports have to offer. The muscle heads that you would think populate powerlifting meets never get out of the gym.

    Of course, John, you are going to have to explain why people in Europe are ordering Bradford Railroaders gear.

  24. that is a lovely story. thank you for sharing it. heartfelt wishes to your family as you all try to cope with your loss.

  25. One need not live in a small town to have a sense of community, it’s just easier to obtain that community in a small town.

    The military offers a similar sense of community, where everyone seems to know everyone else with about two degrees of separation, and its global in scale.

    It is good that you and you and your family have found such a community in such a tragic time.

  26. I came from a small town, honestly, I don’t remember us ever locking the doors on our house. I know my Dad had to replace the locks on the house when we moved away, he didn’t have a key either. The world has changed and not for the better!

  27. Sorry to hear of your loss, John. I’m glad you’ve had a supportive community to carry you and your family. When my sister lost her little girl we had that same invaluable, astonishing support around us. I wrote this just a few days ago as a sort of karmic thank you to those people:

    In any other place you would sink
    to the ground and cry your eyes dry
    but not here – plates and cups clink
    and the crowd gathers round and says their goodbyes

    We all search for meaning where none
    can be found, but you can stand and eat
    and maybe the one consolation
    is the sound they make when they weep
    for your loss

    We talk about sorrow but nothing
    can touch what you’ve gone through.
    But tomorrow will bring a new day,
    and these people will come look in on you.

    So cry yourself dry in this home
    where love abounds and surrounds you,
    and pray to whomever you please but please know
    there are many strong shoulders around you.

  28. I’m so glad that your community has taken the time and trouble — apparently without even thinking about it too much, just because that’s who they are — to offer condolences to your family. It’s lovely to hear that. It makes me happy by proxy, and has brightened my whole day.

    Hugs from me to the whole Scalzi clan.

  29. John and family,

    Our condolences to you and yours. Just now catching up on blog posts. Yes, small towns are amazing and always supportive. I was recovering from surgery once when I, desperately hungry and home alone, ordered pizza. I warned the guy it’d take me a while to get to the door. Imagine my surprise when the pizza place owner came in, set up my dinner, and even lured me a glass of milk. All without accepting pay for any of it, dinner included.

    Sending you and your family love and support.


  30. My sincere condolences to you and your family. There are lots of bad things about living in a small town; this is one of the very good things.

  31. My condolences to you and your family. On the other hand it doesn’t surprise me that Athena’s powerlifting coach showed up. I lifted for over fifteen years(still do) was lucky enough to train in Texas with some of the best(from A&m and world class) and know for a fact that by and large they do not fit the stereotypes. They are responsible, hard working, and supportive. I defy anyone to show me another sport where at a meet you find people who compete for love of the sport and the camaraderie they get from it. Also, very few people have such an intimite understanding of that monster gravity. Tell Athena to keep her head up when she squats, her feet planted when she benches, and her back rounded when she deadlifts, and pride in her sport because we are all there for each other.

  32. sorry. I meant shoulders BACK when she deadlifts. Its late im tired mea culpa. But again congrats to you and your family on the community and the network of people and Im sorry for your loss.

  33. My sympathy on your loss. It tough, but every little bit helps. Kudos to Athena on the power lifting.

    It’s good to be part of a small town. The more you invest in it, the more it invests in you. When my eldest sister (who had been both a waitress, a 911 dispatcher, and a regular volunteer for stuff) died of cancer, she went into the final coma at 3am (she had opted for home hospice). We requested that the ambulance taking her to the hospital run without lights and sirens so as not to disturb the neighbors. The poor funeral director was getting calls starting at 8am asking when the funeral was. He had to tell them, “She’s not dead yet, the family didn’t want to wake you.” Lucky for him, the grapevine spread that bit of news quickly.

  34. Carmen-Roller Derby. Not only do the skaters, refs, etc not get paid, they pay huge amounts of money to do it, and the leagues are like family. You can literally travel the country and find someone who will put you up and take you out in any derby town if you’re part of the greater derby community.

    John- that’s so cool. I didn’t realize that that sort of thing still happened.

  35. Small towns For The Win.
    Saw a great talk last Saturday by Kristin Kimball. She’s a writer from the East Village who moved onto a farm in upstate New York, with her crazy hippy farmer boyfriend. They set a crazy goal (nearly all the diet of as many people as possible, year ’round, with minimal petroleum) and even for all that, their adopted town (pop. 700) supported them. Folks volunteered to repair buildings and equipment, folks signed on to their $2500/yr CSA, folks treated them like heroes. Nine years later, they’re providing 90% of 200+ people’s diets.

    Hooray for Olympic lifting, too. As a Crossfitter, I’m surrounded by delightful weight-lifters of all shapes and sexes. It’s what Normal people do, in my weird universe. (Normal people also do things like farm with horses, or ride a motorcycle for a 10 days straight, or do electrical engineering as a hobby. Or, for that matter, have a bake sale at a roller derby.)

    My condolences for the loss of Mike. Sometimes, you marry into some great parents.

  36. Losses are so hard. My condolences to you and your family.

    Go small town! In a world full of good points and bad points, there are some pretty wonderful good points a in small town.