By Bruce Stambaugh
I happened into the local pharmacy mid-morning to purchase a few items I needed. It turned out to be much more than a routine shopping trip into town.
The clerk at the checkout counter was a former student in one of the buildings where I had been principal. Normally, upbeat and cheery, I mentioned that she seemed a bit down about something. The young woman replied that the store had been robbed of drugs the previous evening, and that she was still a little jittery from the experience.
I expressed my regrets and sadness to her. I told her that my own parents and my wife’s parents had each had been robbed. In the aftermath, they felt violated, insecure and wary. The young woman said she felt the same.
Just then another employee arrived and joined the conversation. She, too, had a school connection. She was an employee, and I had her son as a student.
The women told me that law enforcement officials had arrived quickly, and through the help of witnesses and their police dog, the alleged perpetrator had been caught.
Still, I could see the fear in their eyes and hear the quiver in their voices. At that point, another customer arrived at the checkout counter. Yes, she, too, was another former student.
I recognized her and her freckles, but had to ask her name. I told Heidi she hadn’t changed, and she said I hadn’t either. I told her to get her glasses checked, and we all laughed.
Given the circumstances and the setting, it was fun just to share a bit of laughter. The kibitzing we did back and forth helped them forget the robbery.
We are fortunate to live in a community where criminal acts are the exception and not the rule. Like my friends at the drug store, we are all connected one way or another.
I think this familiarity with one another develops a certain resiliency with folks. My neighbor’s business was broken into. Another neighbor had a valuable deer stolen. Local banks have been robbed, and on and on it goes. Fortunately, these various incidences happened over a long period of time.
There are times when the thoughtless desperation of others interrupts our normal life. And yet, a new day dawns and we go on with our everyday business, trusting, hoping, and praying that all will go well.
When you live in a community where many people know one another through friendship, work, church, school, neighbors or are related, you tend to feel safe. You also feel connected.
A friend of mine, long since gone, once hosted her grandchildren who lived in a metropolitan area in another state. When it got dark, one of the grandchildren asked if she was going to close the drapes since people passing along the busy highway could see in.
Her reply to the simple question was a life lesson for her grandchild.
“We leave the curtains open,” the grandmother said, “so that people can see us. That way they will know we are all right.”
There are times when others will take advantage of us for such thinking. But if that happens, friends, neighbors, coworkers, relatives and former students will help us in our time of need.
Sometimes that help simply comes in the form of a little spontaneous laughter that helps keep us connected to one another. In the case of my friends at the pharmacy, the smiles and the laughs in the face of fear were treasures no robber could steal.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013
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