My wife and I moved into this community in 1999, with previous stops in Missouri, Alaska, and Minnesota.  At the time, we’d spent shorter amounts of time in each place for college and jobs.  At the time, our oldest daughter was 15 months old, and I’m not sure what our plan was.  We’d decided that spring a move was probably in order after seven hours in a car with a crying child.  My wife’s parents were roughly nine hours from our home in Missouri, my parents about 7 1/2 hours, so getting close was a priority.  When I got the job that I currently have, I’m not sure if we’d planned on staying here a while or not, but at the end of this school year, it will be 17 years.

We’ve been active in some things, but this is one of those places where it’s not easy to feel “part” of things because it is a close knit community. Families are large and extended families are usually close by so gatherings can get quite large.  It’s not a bad thing for us, it’s just the way it is and we knew this coming in.

However, there are benefits to small town communities such as these and that’s what leads me to this blog.  We’ve had two students have freak accidents in the span of four months.  One student, E, was hit by a car while riding her bike to the bus stop in May.  In late August, the other student , C, was involved in a freak football accident that resulted in a stroke.  Both students were very touch and go for a while, involving surgeries and a much waiting to see what would happen next.  As of today, the first student has been given a date of mid-October where she’ll be released from her rehab center, while the other student was shown on Facebook taking his first steps since his accident.

For both families, the community has rallied around them in ways that make small town communities unique.  Friends and family organized a massive meal, auction, fundraiser for E in July, which raised thousands of dollars to help with medical expenses.  The best part of that fundraiser, the students.  There were at least 50 student volunteers who donated 5 hours of their time to the highest bidder.  For me as a teacher, seeing my former students giving in a selfless way like that made my heart happy.  C, he’s a member of our current class.  I met his mom for the first time briefly for the first time the Thursday before school, and I knew who C was, but had him in class a total of a day before his accident.  Since then, the community has rallied around him, with the hashtag #teamchase spreading to other football teams in Northeast Iowa, offering up their support to C.  Over a 1,000 #teamchase t-shirts have been ordered and printed, along with all sorts of bracelets, decals, bags, socks, and more I’m sure I’ve not see yet.  Wednesday was a wear purple day for C and E, and you’d have thought we’d painted the elementary and middle school ourselves.  It was awesome to see such support for these kids from their schoolmate.

The point of all this, it’s a pretty dang special community.  The kind where you know that someone’s got your back if you need it.  It’s a community where people are going to watch out for your kids, your family, and you know if you are gone, your neighbors are going to watch your place because you know your neighbors.

I’m pretty proud to be a community that steps up repeatedly for those in need.  I know my own daughters have watched this and they are better for it, seeing how the power of community works.

You can find out more about E at her CaringBridge page (it does require registration).

You can find out more about C at his YouCaring page or by going on Facebook and searching #teamchase.

Find that community where you are. You’ll be better for it as well. 🙂