On Friday morning, this was the view from our front steps:
To the right and to the left and all around, fire and other emergency personnel from all over the St. Louis region (and even all over the country) used our little corner of the city as a staging area for a 5-mile funeral procession to pay respects to Ryan Hummert, the firefighter killed here on Monday. We walked up the street and around the corner to stand outside the church where the service was. The rain made it an appropriately somber morning for all.
This may seem an odd segue into a post about community, but stay with me.
We live in the city. Really: we live half-a-house away from the St. Louis city/county line (the house next to us is considered to be halfway in the city and halfway in the county – not sure how their tax-paying works, but I’m sure both entities are getting what’s theirs). Anyway, we’ve lived in this house for 12 days and have experienced neighborly community for probably the very first time.
You know what? I never expected that in the city. Growing up, the word “community” meant something set apart, outside of the bustle of normal living; a suburb, if you will, and a place to which to retreat. You’d think a family of introverts would appreciate that, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our 11 years of 8 moves, it’s that we’re not isolationists. We need people; we need to feel connected; we need to be part of others’ lives…and them to be part of ours.
The neighborhood we lived in in Colorado was nice. We had friends in the area, but our immediate neighbors? I couldn’t even tell you their names when we lived there, let alone now, three years later. We moved into that house in July; on Halloween we walked the girls door-to-door, collecting candy and introducing ourselves to these people we’d lived next to for months. They didn’t care.
Here, we already know the names of four different families around us. They came to us, bearing baked goods, smiles, and “Welcome to the neighborhood!” greetings. These are four families we did not know before we moved in. In addition to these four, we know four more families who were already our friends – two on our very street. We were connected before, but we’re even more so now.
One of the new families (a friendly empty-nest couple next door who love our girls) “hired” Maddie to dog-sit for 20 minutes on Friday. She was so excited – for the job, yes – but more because of the trust of the neighbors. The girls know the names of all the dogs on the street. Better yet, there are children here of all ages; we can find a match for everyone.
Thus far, we’ve been benefactors of two loaves of banana bread, one batch of brownies (which we used to soothe the frazzled nerves of the trash guys when they saw how much we put out on the street last week), one bottle of wine, one batch of gooey butter cake (or “gooey butter butt,” as Craig calls it – man, that stuff is good), and today, one amazing loaf of cinnamon swirl bread.
We’ve been here 12 days. We’ve experienced tragedy; we’ve experienced care. We’re experiencing community. It’s been hard; it’s been sweet; it’s been home.
We’re happy to be here.