I was to a funeral today for a man I didn't know. If that sounds strange to you, you're not from around here. To say I didn't know him may be a little misleading. He's lived 8 miles from me my whole life, and we've probably only ever said 10 words to each other. But I know him because I know his son and his son's family. The church was full, much to the chagrin of the deceased I'm sure. Everyone was there for the family, and if you would've gone downtown to run your errands, you might've had to wait extra long, because the person who works where you do business was probably at the funeral, and the boss let them go without cutting their pay. But you waited, because that's what you do where I'm from. The funeral procession was led by a shiny red and chrome Peterbuilt. And everybody thought it was perfect. The church parking was full, around the block, and a lot of them were four wheel drive pickups. Because that's how it is where I come from.
Where I come from, you either wave first, or you wave back, to every car or truck you meet on the road, whether you know them or not. You say please and thank you to the cashier, the waitress, the kids in the band, on the team or in the play, and the soldiers. You nod a hello with a smile when you meet someone on the street, not because they're your friend or even because you've met them before, but because they're your neighbor. You might get stuck at the grocery store holding the door for the next 10 people, just because you held it for the person behind you. And where I come from, we still say Merry Christmas.
Stockings, Santa, shopping, and fa la la's are for Xmas. Silent Night's, Away in a Manger's, and candle lit services are for Christmas. Not getting through your church choir's anthem because you're overwhelmed by the congregation praising a baby is for Christmas. Being with your family, presents and a huge meal or not, is for Christmas. Somebody asked the other day, in a crowded room, "what's Christmas without snow?", and the whole room, as if on cue, said, "Christmas". Where I'm from, don't worry so much about xmas, but Christmas is everyone's favorite time of year.
Where I'm from, you're friends with the first girl you ask out. Probably because you've gone to the same school and sat in the same classes and played on the same playground all your life. And you can't take her out for food or a movie without everybody in town knowing that you're dating. The other people in the restaurant will make sure of that. And there rarely comes a time when you have to meet her parents. Chances are, they've known you all your life, and your mothers have already talked at length about you.
People around here plan their schedules around important events. Not the usual important events. I'm talking about things like the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. My hometown is consistently at the top of the nation in money collected per capita. Because we all know somebody who is fighting the good fight, or has lost the battle, with the sunnovabitch that is cancer. It's a big deal to raise money all year, and come together on one day in the summer to raise more, so that research can be done by people way smarter than we are.
There's 7 churches near where I live. And on Sunday's, the restaurants in town are often poorly patronized. Most people are at somebody else's church, eating a fundraiser dinner. Lots of kids have gone to camp, lots of food put on the food pantry shelf, and lots of kids in country's I can't even spell have been helped because a church and a community came together just to eat a meal at the same table. Same goes for the fire hall. Many pancake feeds have put out a lot of fires in my county.
People often move away. As well they should. The kids raised around here have a job to do in this world, and this place isn't big enough to hold them. But they take with them all of the values that make this place the one they tell people, "that's where I come from". And I'm proud to say, it's not just where I come from, it's where I am.