The Benefits of Community

Our favorite pizzeria/restaurant of choice is The Red Wolf or Lupo Rosso. And some of our friends here wonder why as it’s small and unpretentious. Nothing fancy or elegant, but the food is excellent. And we tell them, “It’s all about community.” And to us that’s a lot more important than elegance!

A come as you are type of place, the decor is low-key pub style. But homey, it transmits a feeling of belonging. Everyone calls us by name and stops to greet us. And some even join our table, without invitation.

Like the time an elderly gentleman just sat beside us bringing his pizza along. Which was OK with us. Partly because we were about to leave anyway. But mostly because he had recently lost his wife and hated the idea of eating alone.

Importance of community

As I said, it’s all about community. And that takes me back to my broken ankle several years ago. And the beautiful memory tied to that painful incident. A memory of community and that same pizzeria! Hubby had gone to get take-out pizza, as I couldn’t manage our stairs. So they sent their greetings, along with a beautiful rose, taped to my pizza box!

The gift of that rose often reminds me of the benefits of community. Especially in small towns, like ours. Or as our little granddaughter used to say, “The town where everyone knows me!” And she was pretty much right.

Complexity of community

Small communities are like that. And that shrunken down world somehow seems a little safer and more embraceable. Which is reassuring, especially to young children. But while sometimes safer and more tranquil, village life also has its downsides. Because such a shrunken down world is, in some ways, also more complex…

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world…. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us.

G.K. Chesterton

In smaller towns, we don’t get much choice. No one usually gets to pick their neighbors, townsfolk, or shop owners. But in the smaller towns we have fewer choices. What a blessing ours are overall pretty good!

The small town

Here in the village we have to take the paesani (townsfolk) as they are:

  • That neighbor who blasts his music.
  • The one who runs his rototiller at 6AM. On Sunday.
  •  The little old woman who tries to keep us talking on the street. ALL DAY.
  • The bachelor brothers who think saying ciao will cost them something.
  • And the market stand woman whose behavior clearly shouts, “You’re not going to buy it? Why not? You looked at it, didn’t you?”

Everyone knows your business. Where you shop, what you buy, and how much your electric bill is. Well OK, not the electric bill…but they do sometimes ask!

Annoying things happen everywhere, but they somehow seem amplified in tiny towns. Not seeing much else, they get blown out of proportion. In larger towns, it’s a different story. If a shopkeeper is rude, we find another shop. If a certain person annoys us, we just avoid him. But there’s no getting away from it here. Which does have it’s benefits, because we often discover what causes the behavior.

  • We learn that a certain person is often crabby because of her problematic kids.
  • That the seemingly rude shopkeeper worries she might have to close down.
  • That the bachelor brothers are afraid of people. (But they do smile at us now!)
  • And maybe one day we’ll learn why the grumpy market woman never smiles. Perhaps she’s just forgotten how.

The benefits of building community

Some of the benefits I’ve found in real community (especially in small town living):

  • It offers a chance of close contact.
  • It helps us learn patience and understanding.
  • It offers us opportunities to reach out to others with love, help, compassion, and care.
  • And another special benefit is when others do the same for us!

We can build real community anywhere: in a village, a city neighborhood, or in a church, school, or work place. It just takes getting involved. Getting to really know others. And seeking ways to reach out and help.

Yes, small town living comes with an unavoidable community. Rude shop owners, noisy neighbors. But it sometimes comes with special little gifts too. A greeting, a smile, and a fragrant rose. Garden fresh vegetables hanging on our doorknob. Desserts the neighbors share. Those are just a few special benefits we’ve found in small town living, and community in general!

And that rose, especially, reminded me that it’s in the midst of thorns, that we find the roses!

It’s in the midst of thorns that we find the roses. Just as blessings are sometimes hidden in unpleasant places.


IMAGES: Pizza by lauraiancu290. | Rose by Marketplace Designers. | Others are my own.

Published by Signora Sheila

I am a wife, mom, nonna, blogger, and missionary in Italy. But really, I'm just an ordinary woman on a journey, trying to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God and live for all that is truly important in this world.

8 thoughts on “The Benefits of Community

    1. Yes it really does have rich rewards! The great thing about Italy is that it’s easy to do. The open door and hanging out in the piazzas just naturally leads to it. We are so grateful for It!!

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  1. Your pizzeria story reminded me of our favorite Italian restaurant in one of the cities where we’ve lived. It was a small establishment not far from home; Friday night dates were often spent lingering over our dinner and a cappuccino (for me) and an expresso (for Steve). They too made the effort to get to know us, and I think they served us extra-large portions so we’d have leftovers to take home! When business slowed down, waiters or the owner’s wife would sit with us to chat. It was a small-town experience within the bustle of the city. Perfectly delightful! Makes me wonder: what can I do to provide that experience for people in our current city? Bottom line, it’s simply a matter of loving people, just as Jesus did.

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    1. You’re right Nancy. It is a matter of working at creating community. We are surrounded by so many lonely people who really need people they can simply relate to. I do wonder how many opportunities we often overlook. May the Lord help us to keep our hearts and eyes open!

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      1. Oh yes! My mother was Italian and my father of Irish descent. Growing up I don’t remember much Italian cooking in our home, my father preferring southern style, but the visits to my mothers family were something else. The smells, seasonings, and tastes were like nothing I had ever sampled. Seemed to me that garlic, oregano, and basil were as common as salt and pepper to my mom’s family!

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