This I Believe

Sarah - Pownal, Vermont
Entered on March 19, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: community

I Believe in Smallness

A few years ago, while working for a culinary school, I wrote an essay for our employee newsletter about Big Cookies. I compared the “Supersizing” trend in the food industry to America’s apparent hunger for SUV’s and McMansions… and I received a supersized response from my co-workers. Apparently I had hit a chord. Granted, we were situated in Montpelier, Vermont, the smallest state capital in the country and one that had recently mounted a successful campaign to keep McDonalds out. It’s a city full of thriving locally owned businesses, where everyone seems to know one another. I’ll admit, I may have been preaching to the choir.

Five years ago we moved from Montpelier to Pownal, in southwestern Vermont. Now we’re in an area that struggles a little more economically, and the big box stores are being welcomed by quite a few people. But it’s still a small community, where “rush hour” means you’re ten minutes late because you got stuck behind a manure trailer. It’s still a place where, when you go to a friend’s for dinner, you run into people you know from work. The norm here is one or two degrees of separation, not six.

I work as a librarian at a very small college. I love it because I can really get to know the students and my colleagues, and feel like I’m having an effect on people’s lives. I’m involved in a statewide library association where my voice can actually be heard.

When we go to the dump, we run into our local state legislator, and he knows our names. My vote counts.

I’ll admit, I’ve always dreamed about a rambling farmhouse with acres of land, or a big Victorian townhouse, but when my husband and I found a funky little cabin last winter, in a nice location that we could afford, we became small homeowners. We’ve been working on the house for a while, so most of our stuff is still in boxes, and we’ve discovered that we just don’t miss it all that much. We enjoy the cozy rooms and low heating bills.

I strive to live economically: purchasing decisions and lifestyle choices are designed to leave a small footprint. I buy food from my neighbors at the farmers’ market. I think about how insignificant I feel when looking up into the expanse of a star-filled sky, and I realize that by living small I can help to preserve the largeness of our diverse planet.

This planet is smaller now than when I was young: I read blogs from around the globe right at my desk. But I believe that, even as the world shrinks, local community – be it a small town in Vermont or a neighborhood in the big city – is still what’s important to preserve humanity.

It took me a while to find an overarching belief in my life. But once I started writing, it all fell together: I believe in smallness.