On Church and Community

I just finished watching a TV programme (www.aplaceinthesun.com) in which a couple from Salisbury with £300,000 (about $450,000) to spend on a house tried to decide whether to remain in beautiful Wiltshire, with Stonehenge round the corner and a thirteenth-century pub in the village, or to relocate to Orlando. First they looked round three homes in Salisbury. The one they liked best was a typical British brick-built box. Kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. No closets (let alone ones you could walk into), no pool (because when is it ever hot enough in Britain to want to swim?) and no ensuite bathroom to the master bedroom. The cost of their British dream home was £323,000.

Then they flew to Florida and saw three homes there, two in Dr. Phillips (my favourite area in Orlando, after Windermere) and one in Celebration. Their favourite in the Sunshine State had five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a formal living room, dining room, and huge open plan family room with kitchen and dining area. Not only that but the master bedroom alone was the size of the entire ground floor of the Salisbury house, once you factored in the enormous fully-fitted walk-in closets, and the ensuite bathroom. And they had a pool, with spa, a view of the lake from the back garden, a triple garage and cathedral ceilings. It semed like a done deal, especially since it cost less than the Salisbury home.

But they were uncertain. And what it came down to is that they didn't want to leave their friends in Wiltshire. They didn't know anyone in Orlando, and whilst the weather, the house and the lifestyle all screamed "Yes" they balked. They feared feeling isolated and lonely.

I faced a similar move five years ago. Having lived in a small Welsh village for almost twenty years, where I knew everyone and everyone knew me, I decided to move back to the town where I had grown up. My childhood friends had long since moved on (even the ones I remembered), and it might have been a daunting prospect. But it wasn't, because I knew that I was coming to a ready-made community. I knew that my new ward would welcome me.

And welcome me they did. Three weeks after my arrival I threw a housewarming party, and about fifty people turned up, all bearing gifts, food and good wishes. Several neighbours in attendance wondered how I already knew so many people, and many expressed envy that I had such strong support and friendship so soon. A month later, one of the sisters in the Ward threw me a baby shower, and again twenty cars crammed into our little cul-de-sac, and a stream of gift-bearing friends joined me in anticipating the arrival of little Ceridwen (now 4).

Those of you reading this who have always been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or have always lived in strong LDS areas, may not realise how lucky you are to be part of such a loving community. I joined the church only a short time before I left Criccieth, but I had learned enough to know that there were a couple of hundred people ready and eager to welcome me, wherever I should chose to go. Friendliness and openness does not come easily to us Brits, and I am pretty sure that had I not been a member of the church, my social circle would now be limited to a couple of old childhood friends and the parents of my children's schoolfriends, and my housewarming party would have been a damp squib.

Should I ever choose to up sticks again and move to Orlando (and believe me, I would love to) I would have no qualms about feeling lonely and isolated. Yes, I would miss my friends and family in Essex very much (although I bet they'd be queuing up to visit me) but I know that I would within a week, have been brought casseroles and flowers, invited to book clubs and social events, introduced to several pillars of the community, and generally feel as though I belonged there.

Now all I have to do is find £300,000. Considerably more difficult than making friends.

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