So I have been doing some work as a committee member of a group that is dedicated to serving our community. I am going to admit something I am not proud of and something that might rub people the wrong way.
When I was first asked to join this committee, I thought it was going to be very difficult for me to fit in for many reasons. One of these reasons is I am considerably younger than everyone else on the committee. In a lot of small, rural communities, older members of the community are generally the ones who are active with community engagement and younger members aren’t always taken seriously (or they are not equipped to step forward and take a role). Another reason I was apprehensive was because I am female. Again, generally in smaller communities and in my experience, the role of the female in society seems to be more “traditional” than larger communities. The final reason I was nervous was because I had this predetermined idea that small communities have a hard time being progressive; tradition trumps modernization and its harder to keep up with the rest of society because of that. I voiced my opinions to my closest friends often and in most cases, they shared my concern.
However, after meeting my committee peers, I ate my words on every single apprehension. The committee welcomed my presence on the team and actually saw me as an asset. They took me seriously in discussions despite my 20 less years of experience than the rest of them. They acknowledged my ideas and gave recognition where it was due. I have never felt as though my gender was stunting me in some way and it didn’t seem that any other female would have the same problem when dealing with our group. And most of all, the group was and is extremely excited about the future of our community. They are open-minded when we discuss huge change, really smart about the culture of our people and understand what sacrifices need to be made in order to propel the community forward.
Since starting work with this committee, I have felt an extreme sense of pride. I am proud to live in a community where the people are dedicated to making it better. I am proud that this community is small because that allows for a sense of recognition among “strangers” that instantly makes them friends. I am proud that we are innovative and smart enough to be able to organize complicated work, but can still value family and “the small things.” Mostly, I am proud that people within this community have the ability to keep important tradition within their culture and still be able to embrace change. There is a sense of ownership that every single person who lives here has over their home and because of this, they take care of it and its people.
I recently got to know an acquaintance who I am sure will become a close friend very soon. She is working on a project that is very near her heart and she is sharing it with the world. She mentioned her fear and nervousness at its acceptance and how she was worried about letting such a vulnerable side of her go free into the public. Upon deciding to let it go, I watched her friends, family, neighbors and even strangers embrace her efforts and show unconditional support. She noticed it as well and gave gratitude.
It’s moments like these when I feel as though this small community is the best place to live; when its people care about each other and work to preserve the quality of life. It makes those boring, dramatic and sometimes too quiet moments seem a little less bothersome and not that big of a deal.
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