Monday, August 26, 2013

When Time Is Moving Too Fast

Main street was one block long and one block wide.

Eighteen inch tall vegetation grew through large cracks in the concrete.

Time had cast long shadows on the small town.

We drove slow and wondered about the stories behind the place, the people and the emptiness.

It caused us to breath deep, as the town seemed to be gasping for it's last breath.

A few sagging buildings stood somewhat vertical on one side of the street. A single story structure, with a large cloudy window, appeared to be full of forgotten things, covered with layers of undisturbed dust. 

Except one.

White stucco, aged to a yellowing-grey, with a rounded arch facade, which seemed to lift it's tired old face. 

The wooden sign on the front said "Emporium."

We walked the elevated wood plank sidewalk, to peer through the thick glass and old lace curtains. 

Surprisingly, the lights were on and the sign on the door said "Open." Grasping the antique glass door knob, the iron squeaked  and with a firm turn of the hand and a push, the door opened.

Inside a round-faced woman, with thin curly blond-grey hair and bright clear blue eyes, welcomed us as if she had been waiting all day for our arrival.

There were shelves with antiques, hand crafted items and a glass bakery display, which held of all things, flaky pastries neatly arranged on plates. We tasted cherry and lemon danish while fussing over what a delightful surprise it was to find this place in the center of no-where.

Small town talk couldn't be avoided. As it turned out, our host was not only the owner of this place of business, she was the town postmaster and the mayor as well. We stayed so long that we heard about her ancestors being Swedish and she gave us the two recipes to her buttery sweet treats. 

I've never forgotten.

It was a gem, still sending out a beacon of light in the small-town-ness of it all.

We were so glad that we took the time to step off the beaten path.

Years before that, a band of homeschooling families had gathered, as part of a state history unit study, to hear an author speak about his new book.  The man had taken on the adventure of visiting every town in our state and wrote about his experiences. (So sorry, but could not find the book or his name!)

Ultimately he challenged the group, to slow down our hurried pace, get off the main highway when ever possible, and take time to visit small town rural America.  

He was a bit of  cloudy doom-and-gloom, as he stated with bold confidence,  "in twenty years, you could mark his word, hundreds of these small towns would not exist."

Now, probably fifteen years have passed since his grave prophecy, I can say he may have overstated his prediction, but the face of rural communities have continued to take a hit along with the values and slower pace, that they can represent.

So often the young people go away for college and move into the cities.

The railroad depots are silent, as there is no longer a need for trains to stop in remote areas, to load cattle from a thousand hills.

Instead of seed stores we have seed company representatives, full service gas stations are now quick stops and the small town grocery stores have given way to larger town, super centers

They say when the school closes, the town soon follows. 

Now even the post offices are fading from the landscape.

And the whispers that rise from the prairie dust, is that time is marching on to a relentless beat.

I have always loved history, stories of the folks who lived it, old bottles and rusty things pulled from the ground. 

So as I travel, I often pull off the main roads to the take in what many bypass.

Towns that only have hints left to their identity.

It makes me think about where my own identity lies, in this blink-and-miss-it life.

As the days pass into years, and children grow up to have their own children, all that we run after and do, is passing away.

The things we put our hands to build , between dawn and dusk of every day, will crumble unless we are doing it for the One who holds eternity past and present in His hands. 

Maybe today, you and I, can take the exit ramp of a life that is flying by?

Yes, life will continue to be too busy, but I issue a challenge for us to choose wisely where we put our energies and resources. 

May we work for things that last.

And the only things that truly last are those things we do in Jesus name.


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© Rhonda Quaney