I grew up on a farm 8 miles north of a town of 1000 people. No one was ever sure that a thousand people really lived there but that was the number painted on the sign that identified the town’s name. We heard that we needed that number to avoid being called a village but I don’t know if that is really true, either.
What I do know is that everybody knew everybody and knew what everybody did, said and thought. Some of this community awareness happened because people talked to and about each other a lot. Indirect information was also easy to get. Because we had a party line it was easy to quietly lift up the receiver from the wall phone and listen (as an invisible third party) to the neighbor’s conversation. We only had one lady on our party line that was unable to listen without being discovered. This is because she had a bad case of asthma and her noisy breathing alerted us to her listening ears.
Growing up with all these ears and eyes made the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” seem simply like a description of how life was. Most of the time I loved the sense of being careful to protect your reputation. I wonder, now, if the reason I am longing for community is because most of my friends think we are doing life together if we meet once a week, once a month or on occasion.
But, my purpose for posting this blog is a memory of coming back to this town a few years after I had left it and finding there was a new store on Main Street with a sign “variety store.” It was well-named. As I sorted through the various items I found a few things that I wanted to buy. When I was ready to pay I realized that I didn’t have any cash with me. I had my checkbook but I was not known to the owner of this store and the address on the check was the city where I now lived.
I gave the owner of the store, who was also the cashier, my check and asked if he needed identification. He looked at the check and smiled. Then he said these precious words, “Not with that name!”
I am thankful for a family reputation that has allowed me to inherit a name that is known for integrity. I am amazed at the grace of God that allows us to inherit his name. May we be mindful today of the name we represent.