I promised my new neighbors they would not become characters in my next book. I didn’t promise not to talk about them on my blog. My husband, Wendell, and I have moved to a new town – a tiny town with around 500 people. This fits us nicely, but it does bring up some interesting issues. For instance, people don’t generally move here. Most people go several generations deep in a town this size. Their relationships, for better or worse, are long-established.

That does not make them unkind or exclusive. Merely a little surprised to see us show up in town.

So, when a kind neighbor asked if I’d like to come for coffee and meet some of the other ladies, I counted down the days. I’ve spent almost a full year in transition. I closed my husband’s private medical practice, packed, unpacked, tore out a wall, mowed lots of grass, cleaned construction dust, and wondered if any of those things would ever be done. (They aren’t done, but I have faith.)

I also mourned a little. For the work I had loved doing with my husband. For the friends who no longer process life with me every day. For the patients who became friends through the years we served them. And, basically, for all the familiar things.

So, coffee with the ladies on Cleaveland Street sounded wonderful. And, Dear Reader, it was. Yes, they have known one another since their grown children were in first-grade. Yes, they know who lives in every house all across town. They know the teachers at school and the secretaries at the courthouse. They know all the little customs and cultural details that have made this town what it is through the years.

And – they offered all of that to me. When they chatted about people, someone would pause and draw the connections for me. When they discussed their grandchildren, they stopped to tell me vital statistics that were familiar to each of them. They asked me good questions about my life and told me fascinating details about theirs. I felt relaxed and comfortable and free to ask burning questions such as, “Will we have many trick-or-treaters in this part of town?” (The answer is “YES!” I added candy to my grocery list.)

As I sat listening to the easy conversations between women who have weathered many storms and shared many joys, I felt so grateful to be a part. And I thought how easy it is to offer that welcome to people in our lives. To reach out across the street or the apartment hallway or the office cubicle and say, “Hello. Welcome to this small piece of the world. Let me tell you what I know.”

The world is a noisy place, my friends. Let’s have a little more coffee and conversation, shall we?