There is a line in the pavement on Scales Mound Road, just north of the village of the same name. It marks the spot where Wisconsin and Illinois meet across a state line. At least that’s what my parents told me when, every two years, we would drive across it on our road trip south from Canada to visit family. After three days of driving, that line in the pavement meant that we were close. So close.
We were close to exploding out of our mini van to the reception of expectant grandparents. We were close to the smell of the pig farm where our cousins lived. We were close to Mickey Mouse ice cream treats, to games of kick the can, to horseback rides through cornfields, to building log bridges across the creek, to outdoor swims, to playing Sardines, to bee stings, to bike rides, to familiar faces at Country House Grocery, to cheering at the ballpark, and to chasing lightning bugs in barefeet. We were close.
All these years later, I have traveled all around this here globe. But there is still a little piece of my soul in Scales Mound, Illinois, population 373 (so says Wikipedia). It is where my mother was raised, where my father is laid to rest, and where my childhood summer memories reside.
A few weeks ago, I was treated to a Skype call from my cousin and her Scales Mound School 4th grade students who wanted to learn more about, well, the world, and ask if they could they help make it a little better by joining the For the Well of It campaign. From little chairs, they asked grown-up questions, and I was so pleased to welcome them aboard!
Although we hadn’t crossed the line with our campaign just yet, we were close. So close. We were close to funding a water well in Nicaragua through Change for Children. We were close to providing more freedom to women and girls, to improving access, and to reducing illness. We were close.
When the 4th graders collectively call me back over Skype two weeks later, I learn that the Scales Mound Community has officially taken us across that line. We are no longer close. We are there! The offspring of those I remember having crushes on, overflowing rubber boots with, and running races against in my own youth are among the students who approach the web cam one by one and announce their successes! Some are confident. Some are shy. Some are loud. And some I have to lean in to hear. But, they are all pumped! And for good reason. It feels good to spread kindness. To create a ripple. And to watch it spread through a small town.
Notwithstanding their excitement, or perhaps because of it, it is I who is beaming as I hear how they challenged the other classes to a ‘change war’ competing for victory by emptying change jars, digging in cushions, and opening piggy banks to bring in the most pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, dimes on Wednesday, quarters on Thursday, and anything left over on Friday.
It is I who is painting a picture in my own mind as they tell of change collection jars around town and detail their Water Walk in which they carried milk jugs filled with sand to walk a mile (or two) in the shoes of those who make daily treks with heavy loads to quench thirsts. I too have walked the walk from the Scales Mound School, down the hill past the ballpark, across the tracks and past the feed store. I close my eyes real tight. I am with them in spirit.
It is I who, inexplicably, feels pride at hearing the stories of younger students who refused to accept help when their jugs got heavy, insisting that they only had a little way to go. They were close.
It is I who could not be happier that the For the Well of It campaign has reached across the miles (1,600 miles to be exact) or more excited for the 4th graders who have 1,750 reasons to be proud of their efforts ($1,751.78 to be exact. In US dollars. Which is like $2,250 Canadian. Which, incidentally, is really hard to explain to 4th graders. Minds blown).
It is indeed a small world.
Scales Mound is an even smaller town.
But with a really BIG heart. And I think that’s pretty great.
Take it from the tiny village located just south of that Wisconsin/Illinois line in the pavement – small can be BIG. In just the best way. There is no feeling like it. Nothing even comes close.