Despite the sign reading “Corvallis: Population 56,000” on the way into town, Corvallis is a small community. Take away the 20,000 short term residents (AKA OSU students) and you have a village. And, after teaching English here for twenty years, I know a lot of people—or, more accurately, they know me.
Last night was speed dating with parents, better known as conferences. I talked to 44 sets of parents, some with students, some with small screaming children, some with translators. You never know, when they sit down, where the five minute conversation is going to go, although I’ve developed some techniques for directing the discussion. At least five times last night, someone commented on my council run. One woman launched on a mental health is a cause of homelessness discussion (I’ll get back to her in a few months) and then remembered that there was someone behind her. But the best moments are when you are teaching a younger sibling and the parents take a moment to catch you up on the older children’s activities. Married, working, kids….Parents are proud.
This morning, I visited the library to find out about acquiring some books when they are de-accessioned. The Friends of the Library who were working in the sorting room were thrilled that I was going to be on council, reminded me that I had given them a tour of the back yard, and took me into the woman in charge of removing books from the system. We had a grand talk about the state of the world, how libraries are the foundation of a democratic society, and how the whole book sorting system worked, as I only see the warehouse end when I sort over the summer. I left her with my name and the title of the book I was interested in.
Finally, when I was raking leaves out of the street, an older man paused on the sidewalk. He had a big bag of cans and had been checking the neighborhood dumpsters for more. “Are you the lady who was looking for the cat?” he asked. I was and assured him that she had come home. “Sometimes they just go walk-about,” he observed as he headed off down the street and I went back to work, using my new-old wheelbarrow that a friend repaired and gave to me last spring.
These loose connections are the foundation of a functioning community. We all need the tight connections of family and friends, but we are floating in space without the constant interactions that tie us to a place and time.