By Abe Villarreal
At a funeral this week, a stranger asked me my name. She wanted to reassure herself that I was the chubby Hispanic guy she recognized in the paper each week.
It’s a strange thing for someone you don’t know to feel comfortable enough to talk to you and ask your name. It’s also personal, and something you regularly experience in a small town like ours.
At the Independence Day parade a few days ago, each float seemed to jump out like an inspirational piece for a Norman Rockwell painting. Kids were laughing, jumping up and down. Military veterans dressed in their perfectly creased outfits. Displaying their appreciation, and humility, for a service we all appreciate.
Moms were pushing babies in strollers. Dressed in red, white, and blue. The day felt unifying. For a moment we were all proud to be Americans.
There were no protests, just happy looks, and friendly faces. It felt very small town, and it was.
These days, the division we read about, and see on TV is less prevalent in rural communities where we have no choice but to collaborate in order to survive.
Churches continue to help the poor. The local mission faithfully feeds the hungry. An organized PTA is still in existence and making a difference. That means that moms still care, and kids, sometimes, still listen.
When a baby in a nearby town is found out to have a debilitating disease, people rally. All we have to know is that someone needs help. Canned goods are donated. Enchilada sales are announced in different neighborhoods. Everyone cares.
At my place of employment, employee retirements are reasons for everyone to deliver thoughtful recollections. Just last week, a lady named Vivian was honored with a cake and touching tributes by her longtime colleagues. She gave 25 years of her life to the same company. That is something to applaud.
One by one, friends shared tears and funny stories of workplace happenings. It felt like a family reunion for everyone in the crowded corridor. Our small town felt even smaller.
Driving through the maniacal rush hour of downtown El Paso, or the slow-moving crawl of a busy Phoenix highway means that you are living amongst people who are going places and in a hurry.
Time for hellos and goodbyes are hard to find. Prolonged lunch hours or afternoon get-togethers at the local coffee shop are not thought of when you are in a hurry to get going.
Moving so fast, you find yourself missing out on the things that matter. A scenic beach front image, or the architectural beauty of a major city’s skyline captured on your camera phone, will never come close to a game of cards with friends. The kind of game where no one remembers who won. You only remember who ate too much of the guacamole, and who spilled the first drink.
I wouldn’t change those kinds of moments for the convenience of having a shopping mall down the street. I like living a small town. A place where everyone knows your name.
Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.