Monday, June 11, 2007

Meals On Wheels

Before we moved here, I understood it would be hard to get to know people in a small town. When I was in 6th grade we moved to a small town in Missouri and I was told the first day of school by one of the girls in my class that "We don't like you because you're new." Well, at least she was honest, huh? But I knew from moving there that it can take a while to get anyone to give you the time of day without being suspicious of your every word. I guess I'd forgotten how bad it can be. Also, that town, while small, was 3 times the size of Coleman.

When we moved here, we went to the bank to open an account. We could have stuck with the bank we were using in Grapevine, but we wanted to support our local community. So we walked in to open an account and you'd have thought we were trying to rob the bank instead! They seemed very suspicious of anyone wanting to move to Coleman. Well, it just so happened that the newspaper ran an article about us that very morning. The bank employee helping us hadn't seen it yet, but apparently she saw it while helping us because she left, then came back all friendly and talking about the article.

Okay, so fast forward to two years later. Other than church, I barely know anyone here. I can't figure out how to meet people. I am pretty busy homeschooling my children. But we try to get involved. We asked at the library shortly after moving here if my older boys could volunteer. I explained they both had volunteered at the Grapevine library and enjoyed it and they would like to volunteer here. The librarian looked at me like I was from another planet. I guess no one volunteers at the library? But she was very friendly and found something for them to do. Well, for Mitchell anyway as Stephen really liked volunteering for story time and there isn't one here. Mitchell volunteered every week for a while. I think he quit due to illness and we just kind of forgot after that.

So I still don't know many people. Neither do my children. We've met a couple of homeschooling families that we get together with each week. But the children want to do something to make a difference. Who doesn't? I really feel that all people of all ages need to feel they have a purpose. Without that, a person can easily fall into depression. I read on the MOMYS list about a family who delivered meals every week for Meals on Wheels. She said her children would bring notes and drawings and such. They got to know the people they delivered meals to and they really looked forward to it each week. And she said several of the recipients of the meals claimed that the visit with her children was the highlight of their week. Well, this sounded like something I could do. I thought it over, then mentioned it to the kids. They loved the idea. They nagged me to call and sign us up to volunteer.

Thursday I called and was told they really needed help, but the person I needed to talk to was already out for the day. Call back after 10:15 tomorrow.

Friday I called at 11:30 and was told she was out delivering meals and probably wouldn't be back. Call again Monday.

Today I called at 10:20 and she wasn't in yet. This time whoever I talked to offered to take my name and number and have her call me back. This person was very friendly. She may be the same person I talked to Thursday and Friday. I don't know. But so far so good. Nothing but friendliness and politeness.

Then C. called me back. I told her we were wanting to volunteer to deliver meals. She told me rather rudely that they don't need help. She said they only deliver on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they have plenty of volunteers. She asked if it was just me and I said, well, myself and my children. Again she said they have plenty of volunteers. Then she told me she has my name and number and if they ever need our help, she'll call me. I got the distinct feeling I was being totally blown off. I hung up the phone and cried. I know it sounds like a stupid thing to cry about, but it really hurt to be treated like a criminal for asking to help! It was such a shock after expecting to be needed. And notice the discrepancies in the stories? She wasn't in Friday because she was delivering, but they don't deliver on Fridays. And they really need help, but no they don't. Why was I lied to? Why were they rude to me? I wasn't asking to receive meals. We eat quite well, thank you. We simply wanted to help.

I just really don't understand. Okay, it's a small town and maybe she doesn't know who I am so she's suspicious of me. But why not ask me to fill out an application or something so they can check on me without losing the opportunity to have me volunteer?

And then I had to tell the kids. They were very excited about doing this. I told them that I was told they don't need any help. Of course, it didn't make sense to them either. They had questions, but I had no answers. What a disappointment.

Now while it's easy to focus on the negative, I'm going to try to focus on the positive. I don't have to re-adjust our schedule one day a week to go drive around and deliver meals to people right at lunchtime when we'd rather be eating anyway.

More importantly, we HAVE met some really great people. We have friendly neighbors that I'm pretty sure we could count on to help us if we needed it. Hey, one of them even OFFERED to lend Roger tools if he needs them. Who could ask for a better neighbor? I love our church. We have a great pastor who is willing to follow the LORD no matter how hard it gets at times and preaches some great sermons. Our youth pastor truly challenges my children to think and not just accept something because he said so. So they are learning to believe in Christ and follow Him AND be able to answer why they believe what they believe. All of my children absolutely love their Sunday School teachers and I think that's because they feel loved by them. They are wonderful women who sacrifice their time to make a difference in a child's life. And it's working. There are the other homeschooling families we've met who, aside from helping us not feel like total freaks as the only homeschoolers in town, are fun to hang around with.

And then there are all the friendly people at the post office, the grocery store, etc that we don't really know very well, but they are nice people and make errand running actually enjoyable.

Well, that helped. Isn't it strange how one rude person can make things seem so dreary when really they aren't so bad at all? One bad apple can spoil the whole bushel, but not if you pluck it out (in this case-- out of my thoughts) before they all get spoiled.



Kim said...

Melissa, I was so upset when I read this,I know exactly how you feel! I have lived here for 11 or 12 years and can count my friends on 1 hand. And I didn't start counting until we started going to church. You are right on about most of the people around here,they are very hard to get to know. I just wanted you to know that your not alone and you always have a friend in me. :) I am always praying for you all!! In Christ,Kim

elizabeth said...

Just recently came across your blog and enjoying reading here. I am sorry to hear this, but not surprized. We moved out to the East coast (NC) 4 years ago to be nearer our son's family. While some things are much more pleasant here such as shopping, etc and dealing with the public in general, we have found it nearly impossible to make friends. Our 23 yr old daughter still at home (a very quiet person, though not shy), especially so. Sometimes we miss the West. We may return at some does occur to us. Here at least, because we are not from the South, they consider us Northerners...and really we are Westerners, which is much different. I am so glad you have so many children...I wish we had more, or at least one other for the daughter yet left at home with us. It is so silly all this "where are you from" cause all of us came from other places at one time or another. Sometimes I feel like telling them, "Listen my grandparents were here before yours...I am part Cherokee"...oh well, tis their loss. I hope some other new people come into your community...often that is the best chance for close friends as they will be lonely too.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I'm sorry that you feel like you are having a hard time here in Coleman. One thing about a West Texas small town- you have to become involved in things so that people can see who you are and get to know you as a person; not the CEDC director's wife or an article in a newspaper. Small town West Texas, I'm sorry to say, is suspicious of any newcomer and unfortunatly does treat them rather badly till the town gets to know you. Take your kids to gymnastics, take them to the summer reading program at the library, you might even consider letting the younger ones do Tuesday school- these are all really good ways to meet parents and other children. I'm sorry that our small town has made you feel so bad- I once heard Harry Holt (an old West Texas farmer that did the farm and ranch reporting) say to a group- "If a person says they don't like somebody, it was because they didn't take the time to get to know them." Let us get a chance to know you.

Melissa Nelson said...

In response to the anonymous comment:

I appreciate your suggestions. I only wish it were that easy. I totally agree with you that as a new member of the community I need to get involved to get to know people and let them get to know me. I have said that many times before.

It's kind of a catch-22 though, isn't it? I have to get involved so people can get to know me. But because they don't know me, they won't let me get involved.

The children and I are doing the best we can to get involved. But we're still treated like "outsiders."

Sadly, I have met members of this community who have stated they still feel new here and have lived here for 20+ years. And these are people who get involved!!

I've lived in small towns before. I understand the suspiciousness. I also understand friendliness. It definitely exists here--at the grocery store, the post office, the driver's license bureau (I met a really neat lady there on Thursday!), etc. But when it comes to letting someone feel like they are part of the community I hear comments like, "Oh, you must not have grown up here," way too often.

I think perhaps it's too easy to focus on the negative though. You can meet several nice people and enjoy visiting with them, but then meet one rude person and that tends to be who we remember. I'll try to keep that in mind.

Anyway, I'm not leaving anytime soon. Hopefully people will eventually give me a chance.


Anonymous said...

If anyone would like to see all of the wonderful activities and community services going on in Coleman Texas we have a good website
Obviously our new neighbors are out of touch!

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to say that the anonymous before me is right. Check I can name at least 10 things that you and your family could have volunteered around the community. In fact I know several people that have tried to include your husband and your kids, but funny how you all never show up when it comes time to "work". I volunteer around the community when I can and I have never once seen your family. I love Coleman and I was so upset when I read this. This town is very loving and inviting. Maybe if you got out of your house more and tried to meet people you would find out how nice this town is. "A person who wants friends, needs to show themself friendly" Proverbs. If you want to volunteer, don't just sit around and talk about it, actually show up. You will be welcomed. The old saying "If you talk the talk, walk the walk."

Anonymous said...

I am not "From Coleman", but I am in Coleman. I love it here. I have been here nine years now. I was told before coming that I would never fit in or be accepted because I was not from here. I was told that Coleman was "clannish". I was even told that when I went to church the people would not really befriend me. I had a hard time believing any of that because everyone here had always been so friendly to me. I have a bit of a streak in me to prove people like that wrong. I moved here and got involved in my church (and the people were wondeful). Besides that when I walked down the street people spoke to me and we became aquainted. Some of those people are my friends today. I realize that you home school, and how time consuming that is; I also homeschooled my children while living in San Antonio, and had very little time for "friends". Is it possible that it could be hindering you (even though it is a good hinderance). I guess my point is, no matter where you live there are going to be "bad apples". RISE ABOVE IT! You can make of it what you want to. There are plenty of other organizations for which you and your children can volunteer. We just had a rodeo...there was lots of work done on the rodeo grounds, Keep Coleman Beautiful has regular work parties to clean up this town, and there are people in the nursing homes that never get visitors..maybe you could adopt one or two and come during there meal time and help them eat, there is also an adopt a highway program where you adopt a stretch of highway and commit to keep it clean. There is no shortage of ways you can get involved and have purpose. I may have been in San Antonio when I homeschooled, but we lived in the country and I had to make extra efforts and sacrifices for my children to be involved in community services. If you buy into the small town mentality you become just like it. So wat if meals on wheels or the library do not need you..."If at first you don't succeed, try and try again". Get after it girl and prove the "nay sayers" wrong. I did and it was worth it.

Melissa Nelson said...

Wow. I am amazed that so many of my neighbors here are unwilling to be friendly and leave their names in their helpful suggestions.

I just checked out and you're right. That's a great resource! I'll try to remember to check it regularly. I think I looked at it a couple times before we moved here, but got busy with life and forgot about it. It looks a lot more active than it did a couple years ago. I was just asking Roger the other day what I'm missing that I never know things are coming up, I just hear about them after the fact. Maybe this is the answer?

You know, in my original post here I stated that it was really just Meals on Wheels that was a problem--which if you read my update on the blog is not even a problem any longer. We'd been treated with friendliness everywhere else. I stated that I needed to not focus on the one negative thing, but remember all the great things all around me. We've commented in many of our posts on this blog how much we love living here.

And what response do I get from the friendly people of Coleman? I'm attacked as being lazy and unwilling to get out of my house to do anything! Unbelievable. I won't waste my time defending myself on that.

But I stand by my original statement that Coleman is full of wonderful people and a friendly atmosphere.

I hope that when I run into all you anonymous neighbors in person that you will treat me with more kindness than you have here.


Annie said...

Melissa -

I am so sorry that there seems to be a group of people in Coleman that are all too willing to criticize you but not willing to read your post. Did they miss the update? Keep on sharing your thoughts as I love reading your posts. May God bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to reread what you wrote on your orginal blog. You have forgotten all your other problems. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Previous anoymous.... That was rude and wrong. Way to prove her point that there are a few bad apples here in Coleman to make someone feel unwelcome!

I'm sorry Melissa that you are being attacked on your own blog. Good luck with the nice people of Coleman- the rude ones are truly rude! Prove them all wrong!

Robyn said...


I am so sorry you are being treated this way on your blog. The response of some of the people seem to confirm that not everyone in Coleman is nice.

I can not believe some of the comments you have received. It is very hard to make friends in a small town. I know this because we moved to a small town also. We all had plenty of friends before we moved and now just a few.

I think instead of leaving unkind comments people should of been willing to help you meet new friends.

Just remember we are always here for you.