What an exciting time of year this can be; school starting up again…football, soccer, volleyball and softball back in action, drawing kids to local fields and gyms…the county fair just around the corner teasing us with its promise of fun and adventure. I received my fair paper in the mail the other day, and stamped on the front was this year’s theme: “Community Pride, County Wide”. I have to admit a little tingle of excitement wafted through my veins as I thought of fairs past, and the delightful memories its being has created in my life. But beyond that, this current theme resonated with me for various reasons. Mostly because of the pride I feel living in this community. That pride comes not from the physical location on the map of St. Johns, Arizona, but rather the spirit of this great place and the people that have lived here and continue to lay down roots in this little town. If you haven’t looked past the cover of the fair paper, pick one up and check out the stories in it. Featured are some of the terrific people that have invested themselves in our town, but more importantly their community of St. Johns. People like Rick and Loree Williams, Dick Hext, Jack Hessler and Family, and Gabie Romero, all of which have devoted time and efforts to our county fair. Beyond the fair though, I have seen, or been influenced by each of these individuals as they have shared their talents and knowledge with me or my family, and by watching their examples in action around town. What dedication and commitment they all have shown in helping to shape and develop community pride.
This started me thinking. What is the difference between town and community? Well Webster’s defines town as: “a cluster or aggregation of houses recognized as a distinct place with a place-name”, and the word community as: “a unified body of individuals”. So, I guess the difference between the two is the attitude or drive behind what we want our town to be? I mean, is St. Johns just the name of this place we live? Or does what we have here go deeper? Couldn’t St. Johns, at its essence, be considered a conglomeration of the many individuals that are unified in a purpose of building a “place” to be proud of? I believe it’s the latter… St. Johns is what it is because of the individuals that live here and their dedication to building it. My roots run deep when it comes to this community. I was born and raised here, and it is where I have chosen to raise my family. Sure, like all towns, it has its ups and downs, and good and bad. But the beauty of life is that we get to choose how we build our community. Our town will always be the same location on the map, but our community will change and grow according to what we all unify ourselves toward. I am so grateful to the many, many people that have shaped my life and attitudes in this little community. First, on my list is my family; parents and grandparents. They taught me to work and to love. Next would be teachers, coaches, leaders, friends …who all helped me develop various qualities like respect, responsibility, honesty, kindness etc. There are too many to name, but I know and remember these people every time I share a skill, or some piece of knowledge, or a laugh, or a cry. These interactions with each other are what create our “community” because they have the power to live on in those with which we have shared. That’s why St. Johns isn’t just the name of a place to me, but rather a loyalty I feel to the individuals who have fashioned a spot in my heart just by sharing themselves. I wish I could write about each and every one of them, and maybe I will sometime, but mostly this blog was sparked by the words “Community Pride” and a warm feeling in my heart that swells when I think of St. Johns, and its great people.
Even though I was raised in town and think I know everyone, I am continually amazed at the great people living here that I don’t know! Just this past week, I went out to eat with my husband at TLC, where we visited and were served by the Sykes family. How incredibly friendly, and nice they were, not to mention how great their awesome TLC burger is! During this same evening, I had the opportunity to meet Father Tim, as he strolled in to pick up his take-out. He recognized my husband, and took time to come over and meet our family. What a genuine person and polite man he is. I was glad to put a face with the name. I have heard so many positive things about his service and friendship since his arrival to St. Johns. These are just two recent encounters that illustrate the beauty of living in this place… people that are new to town and get involved, become unified with our purpose= to unify our community and help make it vibrant. To those of you I may not have met yet and are new to town or not, I hope make your acquaintances. It is also my hope that as a whole our community can put aside any past feelings of hurt, or ill will and join together to make St. Johns a place in which we can all love to live, and continue to keep it a great place to “raise” our futures and feel pride in. I am grateful to God to have been blessed to live in the place on the map called St. Johns. And even more grateful to have the chance to live in the “community” of St. Johns.
P.S. There is a great group on facebook that I often read and learn about the people that also grew up in, or passed through our small town. There are conversations of great memories of yesteryear. The pictures are fun and the comments range from heart-touching, to knee-slapping. Here’s the link: You Know You're from St. Johns When... One of my favorite subjects on this site is “Mr. Leo Madrid” and the nicknames he’s given us over the years! It’s become almost a rite of passage at the middle school. But here again is another awesome individual that has given so much fun, help with math, sports etc. to the youth of our community. So again, my thanks and appreciations to my “COMMUNITY” for all you’ve given and continue to give.