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This is why I moved to a new town

When I retired and decided to move to Jacksonville, people asked, “Why there? Do you have people? What will you do?”

Truth be told, I felt I had no one, and the work I was doing hadn’t worked for me in a very long time.

Shortly before the big move, I was at a local grocery. Behind the bakery counter was a beautiful young woman beaming in my direction.

“Joan, is that you?" she said. "I think about you all the time. I want to thank you for being a positive influence in my life.”

I remembered a decade earlier I had traded favors with a co-worker: I babysat for her, and she watched my animals when I was out of town.

“OMG, you’re Sarah!” The lovely swan before me had, at one time, been a homely, troubled, dirty little grade-schooler. Our brief encounter was a salve for my wounded soul.

Soon after my relocation, I met neighbors and town folk — creative, accomplished migrants all. What we have in common is that we are all reassessing and hoping to revive a better version of ourselves. As for me, of all that I’ve accomplished and left behind, I recalled Sarah and the power of the nano-impact, and so I embarked.

Shortly after my arrival in Jacksonville, a single working mother of three with two large boxer dogs moved next door. Being lonely and bored, the dogs barked and barked. I could have filed a noise complaint, and the dogs would have been fitted with electric shock collars. My choice, instead, was to knock at my new neighbor’s door, introduce myself, and ask permission to give those wonderful dogs a daily walk.

Later, another new friend shared that her mother is a longtime resident in assisted living. Having been a primary caregiver, I identify with the anxiety my friend experiences. We agreed that I could meet and befriend her mother. Now, once a week I make a trek to the memory care facility, where I water mom’s African violets, clip her nails, and listen to wild imaginings. While I cannot be hurt or confused by Erma’s behavior, I’m sure her children grieve the loss of an earlier version of their dear mother.

I was recently introduced to a former town councilwoman. She is current, well read and very independent. I walk her dog, drive her places, and occasionally she treats me to dinner and conversation. Every day she struggles, not because she is infirm, but because our society tags people of age with a label of dementia. My new friend is 92 and completely credible, but systems are at work to conspire in robbing my friend of her sovereignty. I am her advocate.

To those who questioned my moving on, I would now reply, “There are things I’ll do that just feel right, and they may make no sense or money, and yet these may be the reasons that we are here: to share a kindness and make a nano-impact.”

Joan Walker lives in Jacksonville.