Marines.Together We Served

Monday, January 30, 2006

Small Town USA

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with my oldest daughter, Laura. She and I had a major project to undertake. We would finally be tackling the garage – a project my wife has wanted me to undertake for a long time.

I confess – I’m an inveterate saver. It’s difficult for me to part with things that I haven’t needed or used in months and/or years. The garage has become a repository for all things that have no significant place in the house, while my wife’s car and my classic Volvo sit in the driveway, exposed to the elements. Go figure!

So on Friday, Laura and I spent a couple of hours at Home Depot in neighboring Manteca selecting the cabinets and hanging racks we were going to assemble, thus modernizing the interior of the garage. The goal? Put everything away neatly, and dump the rest. We’re off to a good start.

After working a while on our project, I realized I needed a few extra items. We hopped in my car and headed for our local hardware store, Schemper’s Ace Hardware. I was struck once again at how much I enjoy living in a small town. Walking into the store, I was greeted with smiles from more than one employee, and asked if I needed any help. I spoke with Bud Schemper, one of the family members that owns the store, and was given all the assistance I needed. What I was looking for were a couple of hooks to screw into the ceiling, and a work light. No problem. They had all of that. I spent extra time visiting just because these are genuinely nice people. John, one of the men who had helped me later, walked out to the parking lot with me and said as we parted, “I’m living every little boys dream – I’m working in a hardware store!”

I also needed to replace the wiper blades on my Volvo. So I stopped at one of the local auto parts stores, B&Z Auto Parts. Ray is the owner and is always very helpful. He keeps a pot of coffee on for his customers. I like to grab a cup and just chew the fat, even waiting when he has to take care of another customer who wanders in, then we resume our conversation. Ray even walks out to my car and puts the wiper blades on, an act of service I appreciate since I’ve never understood why the manufacturers of wipers make it so difficult to change the blades.

Getting a haircut is always an enjoyable experience. George has been cutting hair in town for 35 years. He always has several people sitting waiting their turn. George gives every customer the same level of attention, so don’t be in a hurry. You see, at George’s you get more than a haircut. You get to connect with others in the community. Discussions take place on any number of topics. And with George’s laid-back manner, you can actually take a deep breath and relax before heading back to work.

On Friday night I called in to Pizza Plus to order a pizza. I walked into what can only be described as booming business! There were definitely a lot of folks enjoying the evening out. Families occupied booths, while others of us waited in line to pick up our orders. On my way out I stopped to chat with folks I know.

I could share more about the folks in my small town, but you get the idea. But, perhaps it’s Ripon Drug & Gifts that epitomizes what makes Ripon, California so special. The folks who work there know you. If you are picking up a prescription, as my ninety-year-old mother did last week, they go out of their way to make sure you’re taken care of. About the same time, my wife was battling a nasty cold. The medicine she was using didn’t seem to be helping. So she called the pharmacist, explained her problem, and asked if there was something he might recommend. He reviewed her chart and suggested a different over-the-counter medicine. That did the trick!

Ripon is the Almond Capital of the World. Each January there is a banquet to kick off our Almond Blossom Festival. During the banquet the candidates for “Miss Almond Blossom Festival” are introduced and given the opportunity to speak. These young ladies are from our local public and private high schools, and one from a home school environment. They tell us why they want to be chosen as Miss Almond Blossom Festival and are loudly applauded for their presentation.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how blessed I am to be the pastor of the Ripon Free Methodist Church. These are the folks who have supported me in my ministry, and who also endured my 21 months of recall to active duty, traipsing around the world to places like Kuwait, Iraq and Djibouti.

My wife and I often look at each other in wonder, knowing that we each fully appreciate the small town community we live in. It may not be Mayberry, but it’s pretty close!

God bless America!

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