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Random Thoughts

The Perks of Being Home

September 9, 2021

I can think of at least five good friends from Los Angeles who, like me, moved to small towns recently. I have a feeling we’re probably all re-learning what we didn’t fully appreciate as kids.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to go with life-long friend, Carolyn and help out the women from St. Paul’s Lutheran church who were volunteering at the Big Knob Fair. (Not sure where the name came from, but I’m guessing it involves a very large knob somewhere hereabouts.) They work in the kitchen all evening and, for that evening of work, the ten women altogether make a whopping one hundred bucks. The money goes to the church. Some of the women there that night have been volunteering for the Big Knob fair for forty plus years.

Carolyn was told we’d be slicing up pie and serving it, which sounded like the best possible job because you just know some pie would tragically not make it out of the pan and goodness knows we can’t let good pie go to waste.

Instead, I ended up washing pots and pans among blue jean clad dynamos ladling out ham barbecue sandwiches, baked fish, ham loaf, and pie. There was cheerful ribbing back and forth, a lot of serving, and a fair amount of pan washing. But I didn’t mind because I knew I was in the presence of greatness.

To say that these women are the backbone of America would be a serious understatement. Where would we be without all the selfless givers among us? I never truly appreciated that sentiment until I experienced it firsthand.

I moved to western Pennsylvania, eleven years ago, after my divorce. My dad let me, my two kids and two pooping dogs move in with him. He got a cook and a cleaner, my kids and I got a free place to stay, and the dogs had their way with the poor basement.

But, I wasn’t quite done with life in the big city and was morose at first, missing my old life, my home, my friends, and my favorite big city restaurants. I thought there was nothing in these small towns that could compare to what I’d left.

Then I met the caregivers who came to help my dad. One woman was working while raising her toddler grandchild after her son was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Another had just nursed her husband through a years-long, losing battle with cancer. Another just loved helping people. There were so many stories like this, I felt ashamed for being smug enough to think life in a small town couldn’t hold a candle to what I’d left, and that the people here weren’t as interesting.

There’s every bit as much drama, heartache, hard work and motivation here as in any big city…and very little whining. There’s a head down, let’s-just-do-the-work-mentality that’s very impressive.

If you’re lucky, you get to grow up in a small town like this, where work ethic is king — where hands go up when they ask for someone to step up as coach, PTA President, Sunday school teacher, or to run the concession stand at the fair. Then you get older and can’t wait to leave so you can get away from your small town, see the world and go make your mark. Finally, when you’re older you begin to not only embrace, but cherish that which made you what you are today.

If you’re lucky, like me and some of my friends, you’re re-experiencing what you saw as a kid, and are finally able to appreciate all that hard work and effort. I salute you Lutheran women and all hard-working volunteers in small towns because when your kids grow up and head to the big city, guess who volunteers because of your fabulous example?

Your contributions help make this country what it is and we wouldn’t be the same without you. My hat is off to each and every one of you.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Big Knob, highest point in Beaver county PA., fun reads at selected trip reports.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 14, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      Ah, so my quest for that elusive knob is doomed. Oh well. I had no idea that a knob is another word for a hill, but I looked it up in the dictionary and it is. You learn something new every day! Thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    Matilda Novak
    September 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

    i love your words Franzie.
    Always have, always will….
    Blessings on you.
    i don’t regret leaving L.A. either, though i’ll always be glad of the years i had there in adulthood.
    Good to be back in “small town, USA”.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 13, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      Hey Matilda, I know…right? it really feels good to be back. I haven’t regretted the move once. So happy you are content with where you are now too. Thanks for always taking the time to write! xo

  • Reply
    September 10, 2021 at 12:01 am

    SO true, Fran. Thankfully, when our kids were young, in spite of Glendale not exactly being a small town, our corner of it had a small town feel—and PLENTY of opportunities for volunteering, don’tcha know. That said, when I moved to rural Idaho, I learned what the oft-denigrated were really about. The same applies here in West Virginia. I am so glad you are home, honoring your roots and its wonderful inhabitants, surrounded by those you love, and opening your great big heart to the world—with pie, no less!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 10, 2021 at 2:15 pm

      Thank you Linda. I have not regretted my decision once. But I do miss all those wonderful friends I made in LA, like you! Good hearts are all around us if we take the time to notice. Hopefully, I’ll see you soon! xoxo

  • Reply
    Bruce Barker
    September 9, 2021 at 10:17 am

    This grew-up-in-a-village-moved-to-the-city boy offers upturned thumbs. I attribute my big and small achievements to family and small-town roots.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 9, 2021 at 4:04 pm

      You are a wonderful example of a great family and small town roots. Your home town can be very proud Bruce!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    September 9, 2021 at 10:17 am

    The pay you get from doing volunteer jobs is satisfaction, and that is priceless.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 9, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      I agree Chas. I usually grumble over having to scrub pans, but I didn’t think twice before diving in.

  • Reply
    Donna M Tunno
    September 9, 2021 at 9:32 am

    You speak the truth – thank you for putting the spotlight on these good, hard working people! What would we do without them?

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 9, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      You are welcome, it was a pleasure. Plus Carolyn bought me a piece of pie, so it was well worth it on a number of levels!

  • Reply
    Emil Mitchell
    September 9, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Great Post Ms Fran, Volunteering was and is the backbone of Our Country!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 9, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you Emil. It really is a wonderful thing, I couldn’t have been more proud to be part of it.

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