A Sarine Thought… or Two

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

If you watched television in the 1980s and 1990s, I know you just sang that title line in the tune of the Cheers theme song. You are not alone. I totally hummed it while I typed! But do not let the title mislead you. I am not about to talk about my favorite coffee bar or hang out (true confession: I am a literal teetotaler). Nope. I want to talk about what it means to be home, and at least for me, that means being known and knowing others.

I grew up in a small town. Being raised in Sulphur Springs, Texas, is one of the biggest blessings of my life. With a small population of 15,000, most of my family has lived in Sulphur Springs for over 70 years. My mom was an elementary school teacher when I was in school and taught at the campus where I attended kindergarten through fourth grade (#LamarPanthers4Life). My mom taught many of my friends, and I also had some of my friends’ parents as teachers. My dad coached some of my sports teams, and I was coached by the dads of my classmates. There was only one high school in town, so every student in Sulphur Springs was a Wildcat from day one. I LOVED it… until I thought I did not.

Anybody from a small town knows that the information superhighway of the world wide web cannot compete with the speed of information circulating in a small town. I swear, sometimes people did some crazy stuff just because they heard they had already done it, and it sounded like a good idea! When I say information traveled fast, I mean like a speed-of-light kind of movement. My mom always knew where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with. While that does not sound impressive in the day and age of cell phones and GPS trackers, it was amazing what she knew with just a cordless phone and a digital clock!

Do not get me wrong, I was not a particularly wild child by any stretch. But when you are a teenage girl, your privacy is sacred. You only share what you want others to know. Maybe I did not want everyone to know that I was possibly switching from Diet Coke to Diet Dr. Pepper. Or maybe it was my secret that I thought little Bobby So-and-So on the basketball team was a total stud. But in a small town, when this girl drank three Diet Dr. Peppers in a row in the cafeteria and cut side eyes at Bobby So-and-So in between classes for a couple of weeks, it was rumored that I was addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper, and my name had changed to Emily So-and-So! Crazy!

Now, those are silly examples, of course, but word did get around fast. I had some diabetic episodes at school a few times in middle and high school. Even though they happened in front of very few people, everyone knew I had fallen out in class by the end of the school day. This was the epitome of embarrassment for a teenage girl who always liked to give off the impression that she was cool as a cucumber and did not have a worry in the world. At times like those, I would think about how nice it would be to live somewhere where I could be anonymous. Some people might see what happened in a situation I was experiencing at the moment. Still, their interest would be short-lived because they did not know me. What an intoxicating thought!

So, when Ross and I got married and had the opportunity to live in a new town where we knew very few people, I was super excited. I thought I would love not being known. But boy, was I wrong.

We lived in two places at two separate times where we did not know more than two or three people: Texarkana in 2003 and Houston in 2010. The experiences that I thought would be freeing turned out to be isolating. I missed going to Walmart and seeing seven people I knew also shopping for Ziploc bags, dryer sheets, or chocolate syrup. I had not considered what it would be like to go to church and not have people a generation or two older than me ask about my family and what was going on with us. I had not even thought about not having those friends you can call at 3:00 a.m. when you have an emergency and need to leave your baby with someone you love and trust, and they would not think twice about keeping him. I had completely misjudged the value of community.

But what I really missed the most was knowing others. I missed knowing people well enough to ask how their mom was doing after her stay in the hospital or if their child was ready for camp. I missed having people I prayed for in specific areas of their lives. I missed knowing others and being known in return. So how could I get back to that place of small townesque community? I had to get my little anonymous behind in gear and get “nonymous” with some folks! I had to make friends.

Game changer of life: when God leads you to people you mesh with, and He creates a loving community where all the members care for one another. It was a privilege to have my own little “small town” groups within the larger places I lived. Those people who knew and understood me and whom I got to know and love back are true treasures in my life.

All the things I thought I did not want people to know when I was younger, I now know, are the things that make life grand. Having others know your preferred carbonated beverage or what brand of shampoo you like best, or what you need prayer for is so comforting. And knowing that information about others is such a privilege!

So, you know what? I believe I will continue striving to live where everybody knows my name. Not because I am popular or famous, but because I know them, and they know me on a deeper level. And that, my friends, at least to me, is what it means to be home.


 

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