Robbers can’t steal the most valuable treasures

amishcountrybybrucestambaugh
I drove by this Amish produce farm on the way to and from the pharmacy.

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.

feelingsafebybrucestambaugh
The scene reflects the lifestyle in Amish country. Though crimes do occur from time to time, the perpetrators are usually caught and convicted.

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.

Grandma and grandson.
Grandma and grandson.
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.

newfriendsbybrucestambaugh
Smiles are generally the rule in any Holmes Co. business.

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.

grandsonbybrucestambaugh
Grandson
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

Staying connected is really important

By Bruce Stambaugh

It didn’t take long for our year and a half old granddaughter to warm up to me when my wife and I visited with her and her family recently in Virginia. Since we live in Ohio, we don’t get to interact with them as much as we would like.

Once Maren felt comfortable in my presence, she was fascinated with my bald head. When I bent down to her toddler level, the beautiful little girl boldly reached out and patted my baldness.

Now and then, after patting and rubbing my head, she would move her hand down, and jab her dimpled index finger into my beard. That little gesture generated an ornery laugh from the precocious Maren.

Granddaughter by Bruce Stambaugh
Poppy and Maren

It was as if she were saying, “If Poppy can grow hair on his face, why can’t he grow it on top of his head?” I’d like to know the answer to that question, too.

Maren was connecting with me inquisitively, creatively. Her affectionate patting and prodding warmed my heart. I truly felt connected.

Near the end of our extended stay in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I attended a two-day conference entitled “Conversations on Attachment.” It was about how we humans interconnect with one another, and why it’s so important, even for bald guys.

The words of the various articulate speakers evoked mental examples of meaningful interactions with others. I felt blessed.

Here were renowned psychologists, doctors, therapists, professors and theologians providing well-researched and published theories and studies confirming what I already believed. Humans are social beings designed to be interdependent. We are intended to live in community and in close relationships. One speaker described the collective process of positively relating with others as “a shared humanity.”

Before my wife and I left for our Virginia visit, our son and his wife graciously hosted us for dinner. Knowing how well they cook, I was more than glad to accept their kind invitation in honor of our 40th anniversary.

In addition to the magnificent food, we were pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of the best man at our wedding and his wife. The couple has been lifetime best friends with us. It was an engaging evening of delightful conversation and cuisine.

Texas BBQ smoker by Bruce Stambaugh
Son-in-law, Daryl Bert, and his Texas barbecue smoker

Before leaving Virginia, our daughter and son-in-law repeated the surprise performance at our last supper there. Using his best transplanted Texan barbecue skills, we dined on smoked pork ribs and incredible grilled burgers.

Again, we didn’t feast alone. Our daughter clandestinely invited four couples we had known over the years and with whom we had oft interacted. Now they all lived near her. She also invited our niece, a fellow Virginian. Just like before, we had no idea they were coming.

They each brought their own delicious dishes to complement the meaty main course. When the scrumptious meal wound down, our daughter had the guests disclose how they knew us. As the sharing evolved, something truly amazing unfolded. Though some around the table had never met, as they listened they realized they knew some of the same people mentioned in the various stories.

Their connecting with one another generated joyous revelation. The combination of the great food, inspiring conversation and spontaneous connectivity made it a truly fulfilling gathering. We had held our own attachment conference.

The great food, lively conversing and personal discoveries around the table equated with patting me on the head and poking my beard. I couldn’t get more attached than that.