Thursday, July 25, 2013

Single's town

Chagrin Falls is the dog town. Everywhere you walk, any time of day, any day of the week, you are sure to meet at least a handful of dogs - and that isn't even counting all the dogs you will see but not be formally introduced to. The dog to human ratio here is stunning. There are at least as many dogs as people, if not more. Some people walk with a special leash designed to control their two or three dogs at a time. Others have mastered the art of walking with a leash in each hand. Either way, they manage to include all of their furry friend in their strolls about town.
Chagrin Falls is also middle-aged singles town. This may seem to have nothing to do with the previously described dog town, but stick with me on this, it is all related.
When I moved into my house I realized that my singleness was far from a rarity on my street, in fact I joined the majority. Both of my neighbors, middle aged women, are single. The woman two doors down to my right and three doors down to my left are also single. The man three doors down to my right and the man with two kids across the street are, you guessed it, single. Are you sensing a trend?
The foot-loose and fancy-free crowd isn't just on May Court. They are all over Chagrin Falls. I can't even count how many single men and women I have met in Starbucks. It seems with almost every visit I come across another middle aged person without a ring on their left hand and no spouse waiting at home - maybe a dog, but no hubby.
And this is where the two worlds, the dog world and the single world, collide. It comes down to companionship. We are all born with the desire to share our lives with someone. I assume this is why God created Eve, to give Adam someone to go through life with. He thought it was better that they experience things together rather than as a solo, lone reed.
Even those of us who are single understand this principle. That's why dogs are so popular. Not everyone finds the man or woman of their dreams, or even someone close enough to make "I do" appealing enough to say in front of a crowd of witnesses. So, for those who don't find a person to settle in with, some of us bring a dog home instead.
There is still a third element to my theory of singles with dogs making up an overwhelmingly large segment of the population in Chagrin Falls. That is community. Not only does the single population want a dog to curl up with on the couch and take walks with in the evenings, but they want the community interaction that comes from living within a few feet of your neighbor, walking to the same shops in town and attending the same town events on the weekends.
There is a sense of community and closeness that comes from living in a small town where walking is more convenient than driving and the Popcorn Shop is a local hang out. A town any larger would make this kind of interaction hard to come by. But the small town of Chagrin Falls gives its residents constant opportunity to interact and be a part of something without the commitment of a relationship.
It fills the void of loneliness without having to recite vows.
I haven't seen any statistics regarding the percentage of the population in Chagrin Falls that is married versus single. Maybe the statistics would look the same as almost any other town in America, big or small. Maybe this is all just a miscalculation on my part. But it is undeniable, the singles in this town aren't on their own. They are part of something bigger: a community with which they are invited to share life.
Man wasn't meant to live alone. But that doesn't mean that every man was meant to marry. Paul reassured us of that. In 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 he says, "If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better."
Paul doesn't claim that everyone should marry or that everyone shouldn't marry. Some people actually should be married. And some people shouldn't. There is no one size fits all solution to the single vs. married quaundry. It is a case by case situation, as individual as each unique person.
For Paul, it was better that he remain single. But Paul was certainly not alone. He had God, yes. But he also was constantly surrounding himself with community. His mission in this world was to travel about, sharing the Word of God. This put him in contact with all sorts of people. He wasn't alone. He had brothers in Christ who were messengers with him and he had countless lives that he touched along the way as he was used as God's hands and feet.
But he didn't need a wife. Marriage wasn't in the cards for Paul's life.
It may not be in my cards either, it is far too early to tell. I am learning, and slowly accepting, that if marriage never happens for me I can be fulfilled and content. I don't have to be lonely. I can stay in this little town and frequent the places where community is thriving. I can engage in the world around me and with the people around me. I can be used as God's hands and feet as a messenger for the Gospel and salvation found only in Jesus Christ. I can take my dog on walks and meet new friends each time.
Being single doesn't have to equal being alone, Chagrin Falls is teaching me that.

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