Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And The Town Even Comes With Friends

Friends. They seem to come in bundles. School friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, each group with their own culture, and dynamics. As a kid I had a slew of friends. Most of them in my neighborhood, but as I moved on in school, I found many in the classroom sitting around me. I am fortunate in that many of those little people sitting beside me in second grade are still out there, and I still consider them friends. Back then, a common interest at recess, or at the lunch table, usually sealed the friendship; as an adult, it usually takes more.

Times change, we change, circumstances of life bump us about, but old friends are still there. They may not be as available as they once were, but the connections to our mutual past is still alive. Sometimes, old friends drift away when life gets in the way. Just happens. One would think that friendship is for life, but those ties we made as seven year olds sometimes aren't strong enough to hold on when we turn 45.

As I got older, I adopted other friends from places I was employed, or places I lived. Not everyone one meets becomes a friend, you have to share some things to get to that point.

I am one of the fortunate ones. When I came to town, I was immediately introduced to some folks in my old neighborhood that showed me just how friends can be made, and kept, when one is older. This process restored a faith in people in me, and to this day I am a changed man because of it. One of those that I met here in town has lived here all his life. He's retired, on paper at least, but doesn't act like it. He is always there for those folks in the neighborhood that need something done around the house, or yard, or need something moved from one house to another. He never asks for anything in exchange, just says, "OK. I'll be over in a minute", or "We'll take care of it first thing in the morning". Never passes judgment. Never asks why.

People like this are rare to find, and once you find them, they are precious to keep.

Sturbridge has given me many friends like this. Now, I'm not sure whether it's the basic personality of those that live here in town, or something that is deeper, more genetic in nature, but I have a feeling it is a bit of both. Seems that here in Central Mass people act, and behave in a way that was just the way to be 60 years ago. Not sure why that is. Maybe it's because out this way we aren't subject to all the migration of behaviors that accompany large numbers of people when they move to a place. Here, it seems that when folks do move in, they assimilate quickly into the culture of the town, and the overwhelming theme of taking care of each other. The behaviors one came in with, are soon changed to a gentler, kinder way of being.

That is something that I will always be thankful for. Regardless of why I came to town, or what I experienced once here, these friends were always there. Quietly there. There actions set the example, and after a short while I began to shed all the layers of insulation I had acquired over the years as a result of dealing with people of a strikingly different manner. Most importantly, one of these friends introduced me to Mary.

In Sturbridge, and this may seem a bit far fetched, but is true, more people now know my name, and I consider to be friends, than in the 25 years I lived elsewhere.


One could attribute it to something in the water, but I know it is the example set by everyone here in town, like my retired friend, is the real reason. This friend has become a mentor to me. I have seen how he gives, and it seems familiar. At one time, I had those same traits, but again, things happen, and I started to dress in layers. Insulation.

Of course, there are those that one may not like to have as a friend, but that is true everywhere. What makes Sturbridge unusual is most everyone I have met is sincere, and worth getting to know, and the more I know them, the more I would be there for them if needed. I thank my mentor for helping me find that in me again.

When one reviews what our friends have done for us, we naturally think about how we could ever pay them back for being there, helping out, or just giving of themselves. That is natural, but friends don't want to be paid back. I certainly don't ever expect it. I'm just a friend, for the sake of being a friend.

The bottom line is, here in Sturbridge, people do actually care about other people. They may hold opposing views, but each view is the acting out of how they perceive caring to be in their hearts. Whether its fighting a landfill, raising money for the elderly, saving a tree, or clearing a trail, people here care.

One more thing about friendship, besides caring, a true friend will think nothing of telling you exactly what you don't want to hear, give you a slap upside the head, and call you a "twit" when necessary.

And, I have been on the receiving end of that far too many times to count.

Guess that makes me sort of an expert by default. I'll continue to use those skills on these pages.

Now, log off, and get back to work, or the boss will have your ass, you twit.

Just lookin' out for my friends.

1 comment:

  1. You hit the nail on the head. I've been in town since the early 1970's and the friends I made on my first day here are still my friends today. We watched the kids grow up, and now enjoy their children together. I enjoyed reading this. It is a different way of thinking about our town.


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