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Cupcakes and Facebook in a Small Town

I was born in a small town….okay, so, no, I wasn’t.  I just couldn’t resist having a John Mellencamp moment.  I did, however, grow up in a small town, and as an adult, I moved to an even smaller town.  How small, you ask?  Well, I have a particular problem with numbers, so I have no clue what the population is, but here are some facts.

  • It is not a city, it is a town.  Thank you town fathers for ensuring that we have to pay personal property taxes to the town AND the county.
  • We do not have a Starbucks, Target, Sams Club or Olive Garden.  We have Walmart, Applebees and a full array of fast food joints and that’s pretty much it.
  • We have a whole mess of elementary schools, but only one middle school and one high school for the entire county.
  • A long commute is the 15 minutes it takes to cross town.
  • Our daily newspaper is actually only published three times a week. One of those days is not Sunday.
  • If you go to Walmart to pick up some Theraflu when you haven’t washed your hair or put on real pants in three days, you will run into five people you know, and one of them will be a kid’s teacher.

I could go on, but you get my point.  This place is tiny.  There’s a lot that’s frustrating about it.  There’s nowhere to go and not much to do.  Everyone tends to be in everyone else’s business because we all know each other.  You have to use extreme caution when doing stupid things in public because it will end up on Facebook, or worse, in the newspaper.  Recently, though, I was a part of something that made me see my small town in a new light.

A local couple ran into a really nasty bit of bad luck.  Everyone knows them (naturally) and they single handedly run a very successful business in town, but they got hit with a medical emergency that made it impossible to run the business for a while.  Add bills on top of bills and no work and you can see what a bind this is.  In a conversation with my sister, we simply said, “It seems like we should be able to do something to help.”  From that statement, we hatched a modest plan to hold a bake sale to raise a little money for them.  We had no grand plans, we just thought something would be better than nothing.  So, we set the date and posted in on Facebook and invited everyone we knew.

Friends, we were blown away by the response.  Before we knew it, our little bake sale blew up.  We spent our days responding to people who wanted to help out and donate and mail checks.  People invited their friends, who invited their friends.  By the time the bake sale day rolled around, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 people invited to the event.  It was staggering.  We both did our share of baking and the sale commenced.  Before we even started, people started arriving with cakes and pies.  By mid-morning, I had to take a break to go get another table to hold all the food, and even so, we were four hours in before we had enough room to put out everything that was donated.  People walked in and handed us cash.  People doubled the price of the baked goods.  Almost no one asked for change.  People left with boxes of cookies, brownies and cupcakes.  Again and again, even folks who didn’t know the people in question would ask about the situation, then hand us $20 for a muffin.  It was, by far, the most caring and generous thing that I’ve ever witnessed.  By the end of the day, my sis and I just wanted to sit down and cry for the beauty of it all.  I don’t want to disclose numbers here, but I will tell you that our little bake sale raised about three to four times what we had anticipated.

We are a small town, indeed.  What we lack in entertainment and culture, we make up for with love and generosity.  We take care of our own here.  We give our friends and neighbors a hand up when they need it.  That’s something to be proud of and I wouldn’t trade it for a thousand good places to shop.  The internet can take care of my shopping needs.  My community will take care of my faith in humanity.  Thank you South Boston, Virginia, for reminding me that not only are there still good people in the world, but that I am fortunate enough to live amongst them.

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