My sister runs a country general store in a tiny village outside of Ottawa. Because the population of this place is about a hundred, give or take, the general store is also the community centre, the local coffee shop and the seniors’ hub. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know that every face is familiar, you know every family’s address, and you’ve heard every person’s story about a hundred times (give or take).
The other thing about a small town is when you unexpectedly need something, be it a cup of sugar or a chainsaw, you have only two options. You can buy it at the only retailer for miles. Which is bit of a crapshoot. A country general store might sell coffee and canned soup and locally made maple sugar candy and “hug a farmer” mugs, but it probably won’t have that 10-mm ratchet spanner you simply cannot finish your project without.
The second and only other option, of course, is to borrow from your neighbour. If you’ve exhausted both options, you’re sunk.
So my mom happened to be staffing the store on Sunday when a woman phoned in desperate need of two teaspoons of paprika. She was up to her elbows in mid-recipe, and had just realized she had none in the house. Did the store sell it, by any chance? A quick scan of the shelves revealed nothing more exotic than seasoning salt. Even when the woman asked all her neighbours, she came up empty. (Presumably, in this tiny community in the countryside, paprika is considered a rare and precious substance, like myrrh.)
But my mom is a quick thinker and has a kind heart. “I’ve got some at home. Come into the store later and you can come pick it up,” she promised.
My mom called my sister to retrieve the paprika, which she had instructed my dad to fish from the kitchen spice rack and hang on the front door. Then it gets better. What’s the name of the person who needs it? My sis asked. When my mom told her, she replied: “Oh, I know where she lives. I’ll just bring it right to her house!”
And that, my friends, is how it works in a small town. When you have no paprika, when your next-door neighbour has no paprika and when your local retailer doesn’t sell paprika… the store owner hand-delivers her mother’s paprika to your home.
Just another regular day in a close-knit village.