A second installment – the first installment was written in 2008.
For anyone that has been around me for about 5 minutes will probably hear some reference or story about my hometown. Alma Center, WI – population 454 (at least while I was living there). As kids we jokingly referred to it as Action City, because the only time people were out past 9pm was if there was a basketball game at the high school. Growing up here was pretty idyllic, surrounded by a large extended families, both sets of grandparents within 5 miles of my house, 16 sets of aunts and uncles, more cousins than is fit to count and a community. Now, when I was growing up here, I really understood the smallness of it all, how it was unlike ‘the rest of the world’, and I didn’t always love it. But it was here that I was able to play 3 varsity sports with a limited amount of talent, play in the band, sing in the choir, have a part-time job, work on the farm… One summer I spent afternoons in the hammock reading every book Steinbeck wrote . It was uncommon. Not better, nor worse than another place, but it is the place I know best and continues to be a unique place in the world. When I would share these stories in my classroom, I know they often thought I was making some of this up, that these places just don’t exist anymore.
For the past three weeks I have been staying with my parents in a lull between my work on the road. I’ve been running errands, playing Yahtzee with my grandmother, snowshoeing with my mom, babysitting my 7 nieces and nephews and generally trying to have fun and be useful. Luckily, my Dad hasn’t found many reasons to recruit me to help out with the cows or his current logging endeavor. Being here for this amount of time allows me to remember just how different this place really is… especially as my mom picked up the phone this evening to talk to my grandmother. Here is the story…
On Christmas Day, my grandmother, who is 80, called to let us know that her car has a flat tire. My Dad went up early the next morning and put air in it, but we knew it was going to need some attention, so my grandmother left a message at with the mechanic. I was waiting for the call from her to let me know what time I needed to come into town to take the car up and drop it off… its only a few blocks, but not a distance for her to walk with all the ice and snow. When the mechanic arrived into the garage that morning, he called my grandmother back. He said not to bother me, that he would just walk up and get the car. So, he walks the few blocks, to her door, collects the keys and takes the car to the shop. Later in the afternoon, he brings the car back, puts it in the garage and hands the keys back to my grandmother. She then asks what she owes him. He responds $5. She gave him $10.
Now, while I am pleased to see how excited people are to document their #26acts of kindness and genuinely touched by the memory it is serving to honor. I find it incredibly important to also realize there is a version of human that lives it everyday, not because it is shared with or applauded by their network, but because this is the type of life they live. As you look to those who are sharing stories of their generosity over the holiday, please make sure to also look around in your daily life to celebrate those that live it everyday. While not a grand gesture, I could not be more impressed with the actions of this lovely mechanic who went out of his way to help my grandmother. He’s quite a guy. And I could not be more proud to call this place my hometown.