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ears to hear?
in praise of the word of mouth
by candy green gustavson

Because we are all so caught up in the use of our communication technologies, I would like to share a simple observation: word of mouth still works. It's done a lot here in this mountain community I've had a rather hard time settling into.

Why? I think it's because family connections are so strong and satisfying, lifelong friendships are maintained--often making a newcomer feel left out. I'm from the West and Bill's from the North. We talk funny. The minute we open our mouths the natives know we're from somewhere else.

The times are trying. Most everyone I know is stressed in some way, by choice or by coercion. In work as a volunteer, I've been teaching women in prison. This past week we talked about "paradigm shifts." In reflection, I feel like one of these days--when sealife and seabeds have been cleared of oil, when the economy has finished flipping and dipping, when America has stopped biting and devouring itself--one of these days, we are all going to wake with a shifted paradigm! We are all going to look around and realize that, collectively, we believe something different about the world. I can't say what it will be. I hope it's good for us.

We live in a small subdivision, less than ten years old and filled, mainly, with young families. This week while walking the dog when it's cooler, I've passed a Spanish-speaking family from down the street walking together--the dad, the mom, a son and a daughter. We are shy with each other because we don't know how to talk to each other, just smiles and my keeping an over-friendly dog in check. They walk back and forth to visit another Spanish-speaking family up the street. I feel happy for them. They work very hard every evening after work and every weekend to improve their homes. They've been able to maintain them in this economy.

Our conventional water heater--one year beyond its warranty--broke this week, so we went camping inside the house for a couple of days until we got the new water heater in place. I shouldn't say "we" because Bill did all the work--I just ran around checking the faucets, pouring buckets of water in the toilets when they were over-ripe and getting to eat lunch out a couple of times because the dishwasher couldn't take another dish. It was quite a process, really, as Bill is a DIY kind of guy and, both being frugal, we had to do some research before buying a new water heater.

The research took two days and involved going to several stores in two different towns 25 miles in two different directions from our home--one of the consequences of living the rural life. We were tempted to buy the tankless electric kind we knew would reduce our power bill, but the word of mouth from the salesmen was that like the "plasma screen TVs" of a few years ago, he told us, the price of the tankless water heaters is going to drop significantly. In addition, here in northeast Georgia gas lines are about to be extended into our area so the option of a tankless gas water heater might be in the future.

We settled on the same kind we'd had before, choosing not to extend its warranty, even though we were assured it meant a water heater for life. We figured if it lasts another 7 years, the price for the tankless kind--electric or gas--should be about right. It makes sense to us: we still haven't exchanged our fat screen TV for a flat one.

But along the way, during our research phase, a local hardware store employee cautioned Bill to make sure that before he connected the power to the new water heater, he should make sure all air was "bled" out of the water pipes. "I've seen people in here two, three times," he told Bill, "with the coils burned out of brand new tanks." Now that, I thought, when Bill told me what the guy had said, that would be about the cost of a tankless water heater.

After we had water we drove into town and stopped at the hardware store so Bill could thank the man who gave us the good advice. Face to face. Words for words. I stayed in the car, but my heart felt really good, more settled, thinking about how good life can seem when people share freely and helpfully with another person--no matter who they are, no matter where they're from.

Maybe I will find the strength to say "Buenos noches," to my neighbors one of these summer evenings.


late bloomer, fontanelle of the baby boomers...full of hope, believing in life-long learning, mentoring, doors opening...mother of four, grandma of one: I cultivate gardens in both hemispheres of earth and brain...

more about candy green gustavson


how espresso got me into prison
by candy green gustavson
topic: general
published: 10.25.09

it's a beautiful day...
in the prison
by candy green gustavson
topic: general
published: 6.19.10


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