I would like to thank the Community Church of North Orange and Tully for being wonderful hosts to us Climate Summer Riders while we were staying in North Orange last week. Don, Holly, Erin, Jessica, Nate, Sandy, Kate, are just a few of the many who excitedly welcomed us into their community. It made me feel at home to be around such a loving group and they showed me the beauty of a strong community. I’m from a city and I have only ever known a way of living in which you barely know your neighbors well and don’t have much of a community outside of your family and school. Thus, experiencing small town communities during this summer has been inspiring to me. I have found communities in which friendships transcend both age and background and I have seen people who genuinely cared about one another, especially in North Orange at the Community Church.
At the Blueberry Supper at the church, eleven-year-old Erin stayed after her family had left to hang out and help clean up. I got to talk to her about the pipeline while doing dishes and she was incredibly informed. “If my parents were to leave me the house and I wanted to sell it, I would get an awful deal,” she said knowledgeably as we discussed how the pipeline would affect her family’s property value. She was practically interviewing me when I sat next to her to eat because she wanted to learn more about our summer. Her presence at the church was one of curiosity as she participated in all discussions and listened to us give our presentation on Climate Summer and the pipeline.
After we were done cleaning up, Nicholas was joking about figuring out what was behind a mysterious door in the church and Erin wanted to know too. One of the members of the church went to get a ladder for them to go look and then jokingly pretended to scare Erin about what was up there. While she climbed up the ladder, he kept a close eye to make sure she didn’t fall. He acted in a way similar to the way my dad acts with me – poking fun at me while also being concerned about my safety – and acted like a father or grandfather to Erin while not being related to her at all. After a few laughs and watching a beautiful sunset, Erin finally had to leave after her mother had to call Don, the pastor, to ask her to be sent home.
Erin is an example of what growing up in a supportive and tight-knit community can do for someone. She is confident, intelligent, and eager and I believe that her community at the church has helped to shape her into such an amazing person. What our culture is lacking is more of these supportive systems in which we are introduced to the family beyond those who share our DNA. Thank you to the Community Church of North Orange and Tully for showing me how small town communities can change people and thank you to Don for being such a great pastor for them.