When I lived in San Jose, I rarely met anyone I knew outside of the expected places: work, church, groups I belonged to. When I visit now, I occasionally see people who look like I might know them from somewhere, but I’m not sure. Even if I did know them, it’s unlikely that either of us will acknowledge the other’s existence. That’s life in a big city. With so many people, the odds are good that everyone you meet will be a stranger.
Here in Newport, Oregon, however, it’s a completely different story. It didn’t take long after I started attending Sacred Heart to build a new church family. I soon acquired new writing, music, and yoga friends, too, and I got to know the neighbors right away. When you share a pocket of the forest with just a handful of other families, you talk to each other.
The cool thing about living here or in any small town is that you constantly run into people you know. Yesterday, for example, I went to Rite Aid after Mass to fill a prescription. I met another member of the church choir there, stocking up on bargains for his grandkids. The lady in front of me in line works at the library, and sitting at the blood pressure machine was my neighbor, Bob. Each person had time to stop and talk.
It’s always that way. If I go to lunch, the person seating me knows that I need a large iced tea, stat, and someone I know will be seated at one or more of the tables. At the grocery store, Deb the checker always asks about my dog. If I don’t know somebody, that’s okay, because strangers actually talk to each other here. It’s not for nothing that Newport’s slogan is “The friendliest.”
I like this. It makes me feel that wherever I go, I’m not alone. Of course, it also means everyone knows what I’m up to, but that’s okay. For me, it’s worth losing a little privacy.