Whether you live in a small town, city, suburb, in the middle of a sprawling field or tucked away in trees, we all have a community that we call our own.
I have lived on the edge of my husband’s hometown for over seven years. We are a thousand people in a county of less than three thousand people. There is not a stoplight in our county, or any adjacent county. It’s rural.
For a drive-thru, a big box store or Starbuck’s, we drive over 90 miles. But I was reminded this past week of the treasures our community offers every day. You might not always see them. You have to be on the lookout. You have to appreciate the little moments and give a new opportunity a try. You have to love the people making an effort to make our small town a vibrant and fun place to live and raise a family.
Our football team, who plays nine-man football against the smallest schools in our state had to travel 140 miles one-way and back again on Friday night. Our young girls stayed home with my husband’s parents. When we got home close to midnight, Nathan and I were exhausted after the driving and watching a tough loss. We hadn’t taken any hits or been tackled. I couldn’t imagine how our son, Hunter or his teammates felt. After a short night of sleep, Hunter was up before 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to be at the local golf course for a basketball team fundraising breakfast.
Now I can reassure you, Hunter is a normal teenager who would have preferred to sleep until mid-morning that day. But our local Association of Commerce, led by business owners and community leaders was hosting a breakfast to welcome visitors attending races at the Tri-County Speedway, a mile outside of town. The boys basketball team was asked to help. Banged up and bruised, football players are also basketball players in a different season. The boys were there along with a few other helpful volunteers.
After a French toast, pancakes, eggs and local homemade sausage feast, Nathan and I along with our girls headed back into town for a stop at the drug store. There I saw a sign for the “Lutheran Church Rummage Sale” going on that morning.
Now I am not usually a rummage sale mama. Instead, I love auction sales, a trait passed down to me from my mama. I love bidding. I love digging through boxes to find treasures and then holding up my number and hopefully winning. I love finding an antique table or chair at auctions. But rummage sales don’t offer me the same thrill. The girls wanted to go to the rummage sale and I agreed we could walk down and check it out, for a short bit. Nathan and I walked through with the girls and checked out with $7.50 worth of treasures. It was an overflowing box of treasures for the girls, from a shelf for one of their bedrooms, “A” and “E” letters for their initials, a set of mini-mugs and a little lamp Elizabeth insisted she needed for her bedroom.
The Lutheran church basement is large and was full of tables and racks of clothes, household goods and even a table of fresh-baked goods. As we checked out, I looked around at the people near us and across the room. What I appreciated the most was that our girls knew every single person there. Every woman, man and child was not a stranger. They were all community members, sharing stories about items and asking whether you had been to the fundraiser breakfast at the golf course yet or if we had gone to the away football game last night.
It was the sense of community that I loved in the Lutheran church basement that made me proud to be buying $7.50 worth of treasures at the rummage sale. The sense of community was a treasure by itself.
As we walked out a fur coat hanging on the exit door caught my eye. It took me back to the rabbit fur coat from a favorite downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota store of my childhood, Mandal’s. My mom and I had once been Mandal’s models for early 1980’s print ads. I loved my fur coat of my childhood.
My husband kept walking up the stairs, leaving the Lutheran church basement and giving me a look of “You don’t really want that, do you?”
Our friend said, “Are you going to wear it on Halloween?” I laughed, picked up the mink fur coat and said, “No way! I am going to wear it all winter!”
Another woman said, “If you don’t buy it, I will.” The tag said “Jorge’s Furs of Minneapolis” and I knew this was a treasure of someone’s that wanted to share it with another person in the Lutheran church basement.
I went to Nathan’s pick-up to grab my checkbook. In small towns, we still write checks.
I wrote a check for the mink coat and left with my newly found Lutheran basement rummage sale treasure. Inside of it the original’s owners initials are embroidered. The story I was told was that she wanted someone on our small town to have it rather than having her family sell it online.
One day, I will wear it this winter and go visit her.
Elizabeth snapped my picture from my phone as I left the church. I was reminded there are treasures to be found in every community. Sometimes they are material things that have a story, a rich history. Other times they are people who offer their time, or need a listening ear, only for them to teach us more than we could ever give back to them. Maybe an undiscovered treasure is a weekend festival or event you have never participated in, a new business you haven’t frequented, an old business that needs your support or just a new neighbor that needs a friend.
There are treasures in every community. This week, look for a mink coat, tucked away in the Lutheran church basement. Find a new treasure in your community.