For the past year or two we have watched as many of the things we felt like we accomplished in our little town slip back to the way they were before we came. Everyone wants to feel like they have made a difference and when we first moved here we had many opportunities to help in many areas: business alliances, youth programs, grants, helping the needy, and even starting holiday traditions on Main Street. We were in the middle of it all—especially my wife—who also had our last two babies during this time. (We have five children.)
If we had moved away a couple years ago, we would have left feeling like we had made a lasting impression, but it wasn’t time to leave yet. Instead, we moved to a different part of town and we stayed. We were no longer in the middle of everything though and so we hung around like ghosts—tired and burned out—watching everything we had done return to how it had been before.
At least, that is how we felt.
Now that it is finally time for us to move away, I have been surprised and a little emotional at the outpouring of love we are experiencing. I expected to leave without much notice, but have been surprised by the people who are saddened to learn of our plans. Co-workers, relatives, friends, and even the cashiers at the grocery store are sad to see us go. I returned some books at the library and was told how much we will be missed. Everywhere I go people come up to me and tell me how much my wife and I have meant to them. They tell us stories of how we have inspired them or affected them in some way.
I am constantly surprised by this, but very grateful.
Now, instead of packing up our U-Haul and thinking of the many ways that we failed, I will be thinking of the lives that we touched and the good people of this area. I will miss them and will think of them long after we have settled in our new home—wondering what will become of their lives. It is good to move and get a chance to start over, but it is always hard to leave. And—strangely— knowing that we made a difference makes it even harder to leave. It is a sweet sadness mixed with hope and anticipation for the future.