Joelene, as a born and raised Southerner who lived in the eastern part of North Carolina for a short time, I can appreciate that small town environment. I come from citrus country, and I know the village mentality. When I traveled to Ireland a year ago this past March, just before St. Pat’s Day a local boy, the youngest of four brothers of a well-known family, flipped his ATV on top of himself on a hillside whilst herding cows. He died. The entire community shut down the St. Patrick’s Day parade and gathered in the pub to support the family. That event, felt keenly by everyone in the entire Ballyfad Woods area, struck a chord with me very deeply. We have largely lost — in our wholesale move to cities and our fascination with our devices- the intense power of community family. When a young boy is shot in Chicago, who mourns? Precisely. I was marked forever by the gesture of the community, juxtaposed against the pure untrammeled joy of the parade in the nearby town. Everyone who mattered gave up that day’s celebration to be where they were most needed. We should all be so graced to gave such a community around us in tragedy. This is, I believe, one reason why so many of us are headed back to small towns. However that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, sweat, tears, effort and love to develop the connections that include us. That kind of care isn’t free, it’s earned. If we are willing to be vulnerable, available, to care about our neighbors, show up for them and sacrifice for them, perhaps we can create that kind of society around us. Every study shows that this- being surrounded by those who care-has more to do with longevity and quality of life than good food and exercise. Those are also important, but nothing so much as love.

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Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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