After living in the Philly burbs for most of my life, I am nearing the completion of my first year in Vermont. One of the best parts about living in Vermont is the small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone else (unless you’re in Burlington I suppose). I can hardly go into Manchester and not see someone I know. The same is generally true for my wife in Arlington. Yesterday I had my first taste of how a small town confronts tragedy.
It’s not a full-blown tragedy yet, but it’s bad enough. A well-respected person in town who has done a lot of good for so many people has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. I have worked with this person on some projects and hold her in a high regard as do so many others. She passed the news along to me yesterday and I was dumb struck, shared my sympathy, and offered to pray for her. What else could I do?
Barely forcing down the rest of my lemonade afterwards, I thought of how heavy her burden must be at this point. Many in town know, and she had to go through the same sequence of events with others as she did with me. She may still have to repeat the same scene with many others in town. And as more people in town find out, she’ll have more people who are shocked and awkwardly stumble around for the right words to say. She may cringe at the well-intentioned, but inappropriate words that are shared.
And there is one of the trials of living in a small town. It’s not exactly a draw back, as much as it is a trial. Anonymity is hard to come by. Depending on how well-known you are, your pain will be exposed for many to see, and you will have share and reshare it with almost everyone at one point or another. You cannot just leave it alone and hide. It will be right there before you and everyone else in town.
My heart goes out to this person who shared her bad news with me yesterday. The prayer God gave to me was for her to finish her course well. I pray that by God’s grace it she will find new life even while she watches her time on earth come to its conclusion.