I currently live in the small town of Berrien Springs, Michigan. There are two traffic lights and a handful of little restaurants and shops. This town is surrounded by farms which cultivate corn, grapes, and other fruit. If I want to go to a decent mall I have to drive 35 minutes south to an area called Mishawaka, Indiana.
I used to live in Tampa, Florida, which is a good-sized city. There are four large shopping malls across the city, museums, aquariums, parks, not to mention one of the most popular amusement parks in Florida: Busch Gardens.
So what’s the biggest difference between living in a small and a large town or city?
I’ve discovered that it’s not so much about things like malls and aquariums, but about something much more significant: community.
Community is the sense that you belong to or are part of a group. How does one develop community? I believe that it largely comes from the ability to interact with people who you know or that share common values. Having lived in a large city, I’ve discovered that having a sense of community is difficult because you never see people during the week unless you make an appointment to meet someone. It was a rarity to run into someone at the mall or other place.
In a small town, this aspect is much different. You run into people at the gas station. At the grocery store. At any of the restaurants in the area. As you’re driving through the main street in the town. As you’re driving around town, you see cars and people who you recognize.
Now, I don’t think that one is better than the other. I’m not trying to say that a small town is better to pastor in because of a sense of community, although I’ve found that it’s an interesting and a pleasant aspect. But there is something that I’ve noticed about community: it requires more of you emotionally. You have to expect that you will run into people. There is no such thing as anonymity. When you go to the grocery store people will see you and engage you in conversation.
So if you’re the kind of person that likes to be anonymous and is more introverted, I believe that living in a small town can actually be more challenging. In a large town there are lots of people, but it’s very easy to hide.
This emotional aspect related to community is actually the biggest difference (I believe) between living in a small or large town.
What have you noticed about your own community? (To leave a comment click here)
(image by lookseebynaomifenton)