We were surrounded by the unknown. My little family moved from a small town to a large city, states away from the place we called home our whole lives. Amidst the boxes and new faces, there were times I felt a deep sense of loss. I worried I lost my only community. I wondered if my daughter lost her chance to grow surrounded by people who adored her.
It was far from true. I wouldn't have believed you then, if you told me what I know now. The truth is, we are separate from the community who surrounded me as I grew. That community will always be a home away from home, with some relationships growing deeper despite distance. But here we have an entirely new, unexpected community.
It started with a friendly face at the coffee shop. She owned the place, and began to let us take her dog on walks. In her downtime, she would sit on the floor with us and ask us about our lives. She showed us that friendship can be found anywhere.
Then there was a gentleman and his dog at our park. My daughter and his dog became fast friends, and we did too. Almost daily, in the early, drizzly mornings he and his dog were our park companions. I learned about family he lost and the way he saw his neighborhood evolve. Many times he offered his wisdom on staying safe in the city. We would chat about physical ailments, losses, and little victories. He was the first older man who didn't make my daughter burst into tears with his approach. He showed us that friends don't need to share our age or stage in life.
Then there's the man who sells papers in front of the post office. His dreads cascade magnificently and his smile is constant, rain or shine. We see him, exchange waves, and share how we are doing each week. He encourages us to keep smiling. He has showed me how to look others in the eyes with genuine care.
Then there's the elderly woman who picked up my mail. She caught me struggling with my daughter, dropping my belongings as I carried too much. I previously labeled her as grumpy. She taught me not to judge—that unlikely friends will help you carry your load.
There have been many other treasures we've gathered along the way. Friends who check in like family. Friends we've made over coffee shop train tables and well-loved park swings. This is the unknown community we've discovered among the city streets. For them, I am so, so grateful.
This is not the community I imagined. It is far from the traditional way I expected to raise a human. But this community gives me new eyes. This community inspires me to talk to strangers. To make eye contact with the person on the street. To smile. This community inspires me to hold the similarities more closely than the differences. To plant a love for community within my young, observant daughter. And it's this community that weaves its way deeper into my heart. Embracing my little family as we evolve. Offering presence and kindness when we are worn and weathered.
They say it takes a village. For us, it's taking an urban village. I wouldn't have it any other way.