My parents and in-laws have it. Even the Simpsons do. And I wish I had it: a sense of community.
My mom and dad have spent their lives in Lehighton. My dad has six siblings and my mom works in one of a handful of banks in town of 5,000; between the two of them, they know - or know someone who knows - damn near everyone in the town.
My in-laws have lived in Bend for better than 30 years. My wife's grandfather was a well-known figure around town, and my in-laws know lots of folks, too. I know, because each time I've gone out there, I've met someone new.
My favorite TV show is set in a town that seems to be comprised of about 50 people, yet has all the amenities of a decent-sized city. I think of episode 9F01, where a fire at the Simpson house is put out by several secondary characters, including a TV star (Krusty).
My wife and I? We live in a city of 200,000; our corner of the state has over 2 million residents and the region at large has nearly 4.5 million. We have a large and wonderful network of friends, certainly, but it's hard to keep from feeling like the smallest of fish in the biggest of ponds.
It's depressing, in a sense, because I can't recall the last time I saw someone I knew at a restaurant. I'm sure it's happened, but we'll go out to eat 10 times - probably more - before we'll see a familiar face.
Perhaps the grass is greener over there, too. When I drive into town in the summer for softball games, I'll pass iconic structures that lots of citizens of this country might only see once in their lifetime - if at all. I can try to get tickets to the Kennedy Center Honors, or even Gilbert Arenas' birthday party. (OK, so I probably won't get in, but I could try.)
It's all a bit strange, considering that as a kid, I treasured trips to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in suburban Baltimore. I couldn't fathom living, literally, across the street from a supermarket like they did. I couldn't fathom a four-lane road exclusively servicing a residential area, like they had. I couldn't fathom the need for a highway encircling the city.
Now, I've got all that. There's a supermarket a block away. We're bracketed in by four-lane, non-highway, residential roads. We're inside the Capital Beltway (and not that fake Capital Beltway they have in Harrisburg, Pa.).
And sometimes it doesn't seem like it's nearly enough, you know?
Who knows. Maybe one day Chris Matthews will show up one day to put out a kitchen fire in our building.
Maybe then I'll feel better about our community.