I was substitute teaching down the road this week at an elementary with 52 children. That is, 52 students in the whole elementary, and that included a preschool class. As I was standing in the noon sun on a gorgeous November day, I was struck anew by just how blessed my family and I are to live in Southwest Kansas.
Of course living in the middle of no where isn't without it's annoyances. It's too dray and too warm. I'm too far from family. I miss trees and leaves and humidity (a little humidity anyway). But these things seem like trivial complaints when I look around and really appreciate the fantastic community my family and I live in.
We live in a town of 900 people. Maybe my kids and I don't personally know all 900 of them but there are a large chunk of faces we recognize and who recognize us. One of my boys' best friends lives right across the street from us, the main street of town by the way, and he's often found playing at our house. The other day he crossed the street without looking for cars. Granted traffic is rarely busy in town and most people are VERY good at watching out for darting kids. But a truck was coming and the driver, who knew the neighbor boy, stopped in the middle of the street and warmed him about not looking before he crossed the road. It's nice to know people here not only look out for children who aren't their own, but will discipline them as well; I appreciate that.
Just a few evenings ago I was doing some work on the computer in the living room. It was well past 9:00 and DR had already gone to bed when there was a knock at the door. I was rather surprised considering our town "rolls up the sidewalks" at dark. Of course, I wasn't nervous about answering the door either. I just can't imagine anyone wishing to cause me harm would bother knocking first. I answered the door to find another of my neighbors, a woman about my age, crying on my doorstep. She's a single mother and had some bad family news that day. All day she'd been upset, she couldn't calm down and had seen my light on and had come over to ask me to pray with and for her. I was a bit flustered, no one has ever asked me to pray for or with them before. My neighbor doesn't attend church but know I do...it's a small town after all. So we sat and talked and prayed. It warms my heart that this woman felt comfortable enough to come over and ask for help though we've known one another less than a year. I can name at least 5 people who live only a block away from me that I wouldn't hesitate asking for help, day or night, if I needed it. I've lived in other towns where I barely knew my neighbors even after more than a year of living beside one another.
But really the thing I appreciate the most about living in rural Kansas are the SMALL schools. In 1994 I graduated from an Indiana high school in a class of about 130. While in college, still in Indiana, I did my student teaching at a school of a thousand students. While in Kentucky I substitute taught with police officers and racial fights in the hallways. A small school is a nice change of pace. That's not to say a super small school is perfect; we still deal with a lot of the same issues as big schools (behavior, bullies, cliques). But for the most part there isn't much of that kind of stuff to deal with and rarely any major issue. The teachers in Yip and Yap's school knows every one's names, not just in their classroom...everyone. The 5th grade teacher knows all the elementary students though they haven't bee in his class yet. In our small school we are lucky with the individual attention students receive. The staff isn't stretched thing meeting the needs of 30 plus students, rather the largest class I've see in the elementary is 19. A little school might not have the tax base or resources for lots of computers or the most modern facilities, but I'd much rather have the time and attention of their teachers over a fancy school any day.
I asked my mom recently if the fact that DR and I have moved so often really bothered her and my dad. But she said , no id didn't. Of course they'd like it if their grand kids lived closer. (I'm hoping she'd like to have DR and I live closer as well but you can never be too sure about the priorities of grandparents) but if we couldn't live back home in Indiana she and Dad are awfully happy their grand kids are growing up in such a wonderful little community. I'd have to agree.
Of all the states and communities that DR and I have moved into in the last 9 years, this community has by far been the most welcoming, the most like home and family and for that I am very, VERY thankful!