On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

What Will the Neighbors Think?

I cut David’s hair yesterday. He tried several times during the week to get it cut, but there was always a line, and he doesn’t like to wait. While we were brushing our teeth, I took a look at his curling locks and made him an offer.

“Do you want me to cut your hair?”

“Sure. Let’s do it outside so we don’t get hair all over the bathroom.”

Our back porch isn’t really big enough for the both of us, especially if one of us needs room to move around, so we took my vanity stool out front and set up shop. We live on a county road a couple of miles out of town. It’s a circle, and unless you live on it, are visiting someone who lives on it, or are making a delivery, there’s no reason to be there. But while I cut his hair, there was a steady stream of cars going by, and David waved at all of them. By the time we get to church on Sunday or the Senior Center next week, everybody in town will know that I gave him a haircut. They’ll probably wonder why I didn’t do a better job, but I was afraid to get it too short for fear of leaving a bare spot. At least he has waves instead of curls, and his neck is clean shaven.

One of the things some people don’t like about small town life is that everybody knows everybody else’s business. I guess it can be a disadvantage, but only if you’re doing something you don’t want other people to know about. I didn’t really care if people knew we got a new asphalt parking pad a few months back or that we had some RV friends dry camping on our property for a long weekend. It didn’t bother me that someone from church saw us at Pott’s customer appreciation day, except I wondered why they didn’t come over and say hello. It’s kind of nice to have neighbors who are aware when you have a broken water line in your yard or a dead tree limb you can’t quite reach and offer to share their plumbing expertise or their ladder. It’s especially nice when you’re going to be out of town for a while.

“Don’t you worry about going off and leaving your house empty for several weeks at a time?” said a friend when we were in Florida recently.

“No. Our neighbors will keep an eye on things, and most of them have guns!”

When we lived in the city, we didn’t know our neighbors all that well. We had an 8-foot privacy fence and an automatic garage door opener and rarely saw the neighbors except when we were all working in the front yard at the same time. Around here the fences, if there are any, are cyclone, split rail, or barbed wire – fences meant to keep the animals in rather than the neighbors out. In the city, the other cars on the road were traffic that got in your way and slowed you down, and the ones that drove by your house were noisy irritants.  We recognize most of the cars around here, and if we don’t, we wave anyway. If we don’t know who we’re waving at, we’ll probably meet them at church or at the grocery store. They’ll want to know if we’re the people who live where all the dogs used to be or if we’re the ones who were riding the motorcycle past the courthouse yesterday around noon.

A lot of support groups and churches encourage people to get a sponsor or an accountability partner, someone who cares about what is going on in your life and will help you stay on track toward your aims and goals. I’m sure people in small towns need that type of close one-on-one relationship for the deeply personal parts of their life, but for the more routine matters, the neighbors will hold you accountable. I’m going on the Internet to look for tips on cutting hair, because everybody in town is going to know where David got his haircut.

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