As I sat in a coffee shop early this morning waiting for winter tires to be put on my car (a necessity when one grew up near Seattle with little experience driving in the snow), I listened in to the conversations of the other patrons. With people carrying in their personal thermoses, greeting the other early morning coffee drinkers by name, and the shop owner saying 'welcome home' to the kids back with their families for the holiday, there was a definite feel of localness. I suppose another way to phrase it is that among the people there was a sense of familiarity. It was more than the feeling I get when I walk into a Starbucks, which thanks to the chain atmosphere always feels known to me. This morning, amongst the patrons at this other local coffee shop, there was a sense of familiarity not just with the place, but also with the people. It was evidence of them knowing others and themselves being known.
I'm particularly thankful as the end of my first semester at seminary draws to a close for the sense of localness that has emerged. I love being able to go to church every Sunday and greet familiar faces. I am grateful for the developing friendships with other students on campus. I am also thankful for an emerging mental map and understanding of the local area along with patience in adjusting the relational driving style here on the East Coast. Some of these things, such as driving, may seem trivial, but it really does help me feel a sense of localness. I am beginning to know those around me and also beginning to be known.
Along with a growing sense of localness, I am thankful for remaining connected to dear friends and family from the other places that I have called home. Finding a balance between staying in contact with previous connections and investing myself into the community here has at times been a challenge. Thanksgiving night struck the balance though. I immensely enjoyed spending the evening at a professor's home getting to meet new people as we enjoyed the traditional (with the addition of goat soup) Thanksgiving meal together. When I returned to my room late in the evening, I FaceTimed home and found myself looking at a table surrounded by extended family on the West Coast. It was such a joy-filled evening to be local and yet also maintain long-distance connections.
What does it look like to balance being present to our local surroundings while also engaging with those who continue to hold significant, yet distant, roles in our lives?