Every once in a while, in my travels, I get to visit a place that reminds me of how life is supposed to be. The people are friendly. They all know and care about each other. Life is simple. They somehow navigate troubled times—together.
Recently, I got to speak in a little town that was precisely this. I half expected Andy Griffith or Barney Fife to walk out of the Sheriff’s station and greet me. The population of this little town was 650, give or take a person. May I tell you about my visit? It may be hard for you to believe the details.
First, my colleague, Andrea, and I boarded a tiny plane that flew into town. The runway on which we landed? A grassy field, with orange cones. Our prayer life went up. Once we got off the plane, we were given a tour of the town, which took somewhere between five and ten minutes. We discovered that the stores closed at six, so if we needed anything, we should buy it then. The bank was open 9:00 to 1:00 daily, except weekends. On Sunday the market opened between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm…after church. When we got to our hotel, we saw VHS tapes on a shelf in case we got bored. The thermostats in our rooms didn’t work because they were saving on heat. Blankets would have to do if you were cold. In the winter, everyone knew to stock up on gas and groceries because supplies come in less than once a week. They all had learned how to ration necessities.
The most hilarious incident, however, happened the evening I was to speak to the teachers and parents on Generation iY (my newest book). I was told the box of books didn’t arrive at the school. When I said I knew they were shipped, one woman replied: “Well, I did see a couple of boxes, yay big, down at the airport.”
I was elated for a split second, when another person said, “Yeah, but the airport is closed.” It was only 6:30 p.m. I began to sink, feeling like it was a lost cause to get the books in time for the event, when one of the teachers said to me, “It’s OK. I have the code to the airport.”
Yes, I had heard her correctly. She had the code to get into their tiny airport and get the boxes. Which she did, delivering them promptly to me before our event began.
When we finished speaking to the parents, faculty and students. we felt like we were leaving a simple place from yesterday and returning to the rat race. You know you are leaving a small town when you arrive at the airport and they ask you, “How much do you weight?” My colleague and I hopped on the plane, just behind the pilot but were asked to move back a row so they could separate the dogs. A man and his pet sat in front of us, and a couple with their two dogs sat behind us. Someone else sat shotgun next to the pilot. We were, indeed, leaving a different world.
While I don’t know that I could last long in a slow-paced lifestyle like this, my heart was drawn to the people and the simplicity of their home. It can be done.
Perhaps that’s the lesson I can take away: regardless of the rat race around me, I must decide what my pace and space will be like. How about you?