At this time of year, when Rappahannock County High School as well as local private schools send their seniors on their way rejoicing out into the “ big, wide world” (see the graduates’ photos on pages 8-9 today), we are poignantly reminded of the county’s singular strength: its very smallness.
Yes, small is beautiful. For in a small community such as ours we each have personal connections to some of the graduates. Even if we’re just weekenders, we have at least passing acquaintance with our neighbors’ children. And so, being human, we are concerned when they face challenges and feel proud when they succeed.
In bigger, more impersonal, public school systems, anonymous numbers sometimes mean more than unique individuals. Here, these graduating seniors are as a real as the familiar face we see each morning getting on the school bus on our road. We can’t help but feel that we have a stake in what happens to them. They are a future we can see and believe in.
That’s what community is all about. And it is “ this amazing sense of community,” in the words of a recent RCHS valedictorian, Danika Kritter, that defines Rappahannock.
Similarly, this virtue of manageable smallness was very much on display when I happened into an informal gathering at a local commercial establishment. Everybody was standing around and talking. They weren’t necessarily friends – just neighbors and acquaintances who knew one another enough to smile and shake hands.
They were talking politics and they disagreed with each other. But there was no yelling or agitated pointing of fingers, as one sees on cable talk shows. Nor was there sullen retreat to personalized space on the Internet, where one’s opinions are always reinforced and never challenged.
It was a true give-and-take, a civilized debating, with lots of humor to diffuse any differences. I was transported back to a time before the so-called Information Age, even before the Industrial Revolution, when individuals in agrarian society had not yet lost the personal, humanizing touch.
In Rappahannock we have still not yet been totally replaced by wired networks or machines, as reaffirmed by a non-newsworthy incident at Monument Mills: Some Thornton River canoeists had locked themselves out of their computerized, overengineered shuttle car. But one phone call to the Sheriff ’s Office quickly brought a knight in shining armor to the rescue.
Would that have happened in some other, bigger, more impersonal, jurisdiction? Doubtful.