There are pros and cons to every situation and life in a small town falls smack dab in the middle about which outweighs which. The qualifier is though that it has to be small town that we are actually talking about and 5000 is not a small town but rather a large one. Anything less than 250 is small and anything less than a 100 is tiny. I’m not going to get sidetracked tonight looking up Stats Canada statistics tonight but I bet there are a lot of small towns all across the country.
The most widely touted negative is that everyone knows your business but perhaps you can also see that as a positive. If you fall or need surgery people are likely to show up at your door with a covered dish or muffins for your breakfast. They will pick up your mail or even go get your prescription. If you are out of milk and the store is closed then you can easily go next door and borrow some. If you arrive home for the weekend with only a diaper bag and a 3 month old baby all is not chaos as there is someone who has a baby that age so you can find appropriate sized diapers and clothes. True story but there were extenuating circumstances, really there were. So it really is a double edged sword the fact that everyone is aware of what goes on and who you are , even if you have been gone for decades.
I think when it can become an issue is when you need to have something diluted down and there is no one left to add to the mix. When there is an event it is always the same volunteers who step forward to bring the desserts, cook the meal, stay and clean up or sell the bar tickets. The churches runs with a few very dedicated stewards and boards of organizations recycle the same few people into new positions. With a larger population base you have a few more shoulders to tap on and there are often new arrivals there to add to the mix.
One of the pluses is the kind of service you can receive in a small town. Take for example today when I blew the tire on my brother’s bike we went to the local Coop with the tire. The shop was busy but we left it and went back in about 30 minutes and voila it was ready. We walked out in two minutes without even paying as it just went onto my brother’s running tab. My children loved going to the grocery store when they were younger and putting it on “gramma’s tab”. Somehow the store owner knew who their gramma was and that always amazed them as did the not paying. You might have to stand in line but there is always someone there you know to have a chat with. Coffee row in the morning has all the latest political and social info and although not much ever gets settled there they have the latest stats on seeding, precipitation and the forecast.
Some of the downsides is that the grocery store only stocks basics and when I say basics I really mean it. We take for granted, in large cities, the type of produce that all stores “should” have and yet if you want some of that here you had better be prepared to travel. There has been an amalgamation of services, so to speak, amongst many small towns and so only some have pharmacies, liquor stores or implement dealers. They lose schools and then it is often a struggle to keep the town afloat. Any kind of industry that brings in new blood to the community is a positive and yet, sometimes, accepting that kind of change is a hard sell in a small place.
Everyone knows your name and carries a piece of your story with them as you carry theirs. They are great places to be from but it takes a breed of special people who can live there for their entire lives. A great place (insert anywhere small here) to hang your hat.