Guest column: What it means to belong

I recently spouted off (again) on the Opinion Page, this time due to Saint Anthony being overlooked on the map in the Post Register’s Recreation Guide (letter to the editor, May 26). Well, it honestly did ruffle my feathers a bit. Same as it does when the local weather people skip right by us when reporting on the evening news, rarely giving our little town a mention. I guess the weather doesn’t affect us folks up here in between Rexburg and Island Park.

Now I know this isn’t the Saint Anthony Newsletter, so I will get on with my subject, which is about belonging to a community, commonly defined as “a unified body of individuals with common interests.”

Everyone knows why they love their community, and I’m sure you are checking off your mental list right now as you’re reading this, counting the reasons you chose to live where you do. Most likely, it’s the familiarity of your region, the folks you pass on your way to work, the clerk at the local C-store that knows what you’re after when you come in the door. It’s knowing that when you go out and about your day, things are familiar, and that in itself is a comfort.

Community is the coming together of folks to celebrate holidays such as the Fourth of July. It’s the farmer’s market and the many yard sales up and down the block where you gather to search for treasures, and to shoot the breeze with a like-minded bargain hunter.

It’s attending the City Council meetings to voice your opinions and it’s standing up for your friends and neighbors when the opportunity arises. It’s a multitude of things. But most of all, to me anyway, community is based on being made to feel like you belong, like you’re a part of a large family of folks that truly care about you.

We have had some recent trials, and I can honestly tell you that without the help and encouragement of these wonderful folks of whom I speak, the struggle we are facing would be much more difficult. Coming together to offer support and strength in times of strife are what a community is about, and our little town here up north is certainly a testimony of what it means to belong.

I hope you are fortunate enough to feel the same way about your community, to feel that sense of belonging and familiarity. And I also hope that it’s a priority each day to make others feel welcome, that you offer a few kind words and a warm smile to folks as you go about your day. It truly can and does make a world of difference.

Smith is retired and lives in St. Anthony with her husband.