The appreciation that I have for growing up in this beautiful small town that many of us are lucky enough to call home never really hit me until I left after high school to pursue my higher education opportunity. The saying is true, “you never really know what you have until it’s gone,” and although I never really lost Sandpoint, being away and meeting new people, experiencing different places and embarking on new adventures opened my eyes to a new perspective on life. Yes, leaving town and having these opportunities has assisted me in growing as an individual, but these components also made me realize where my heart will forever remain. No matter where life may take me in the future, my heart and soul, my gratitude and passions will forever lie within this town tucked between the mountains in the panhandle of North Idaho.
I have never seized the opportunity to fully express how indebted I am to this amazing community. Aside from the breathtaking scenery and the endless list of outdoor activities, there is so much more to our town than some people may think; more aspects that are unrecognizable to the naked eye. In my years of living here, I have grown to believe that an amazing place to live stems from the great community that encompasses the name of the town.
Yes, numerous people come here to vacation throughout the seasons. Summer vacationers pour in to experience the lake life. Skiers arrive in the midst of the winter wonderland to bask in the glory of our Schweitzer Mountain. With those one to two-week vacations, however, it is not truly enough time to experience the people of an area; the true beauty of a small town. One can drool over the mountains and the lake, one can be ecstatic about the sightseeing boat rides along the lake or the powder-filled blue bird days up on the mountain, but to experience a community at its core takes a little more time. It takes interest. It takes a willingness to learn why somewhere is as supportive and successful as this. The support, the service, the appreciation and the unconditional love of the people that we all share here year round is truly what make this place one of the most beautiful small towns in America.
Success for everyone in the community has been a large focus, led with even more encouragement, by the people that we see day to day. The amount of time and effort from community members that have been put into our school systems is a phenomenal trait of Sandpoint. Scholarships are vast, the resources students can utilize are many, and the support is unconditional and endless. No matter what students might want to pursue after high school—whether their goal is to enter the workforce, join a military branch, or attend undergraduate and graduate school, there is always someone here to lend a hand. Sometimes it may take a little digging, but there is always an option and an avenue to take to get exactly where you want to be.
I have realized over the past four years that much of my education after high school has had to do a lot with the people that have been in my life. My parents, of course, have and forever will be my biggest supporters (and I am forever thankful for them). But many of Sandpoint’s inhabitants are a large part of my college dreams coming true as well. From getting my first job at Ivano’s to countless organizations to lend a hand and take time out of one’s day to help someone in need, these are just a few of the components that are required to shape an individual. I believe that our surroundings have created a sense of selflessness and that unconditional love aspect that I mentioned before. Without the assistance of the people around us, there would be no community, there would be no unconditional love, and Sandpoint wouldn’t exist as the amazing place it is today.
I graduated with the Class of 2012 from Sandpoint High School. During the four years of our educational journey together and for years after graduating, our class experienced many things that seemed unfair and did not quite make sense. Many did not know how to process the happenings that occurred. A few classmates of ours, and not to mention exceptional human beings, were taken away much too soon from our community. We have also seen this much more recently as well. But although there is a loss of a physical presence, there emerges a cultivation of love and support out of the darkness, enriching the community as a whole.
Times of hardship and heartbreak are those moments that bring out the true colors in people. I was away at school in Oregon for many of the losses of my classmates. Grieving from afar is sometimes extremely difficult, especially when the people around you do not understand exactly what you are going through. The way that Sandpoint came together and showed an endless support of everyone who was deeply affected by these losses is only one of the many reasons I have come to love this place so much. And being that small town that we all come to love, no matter what the extent of the happening, every community member is affected in one way or another. That’s why I am so thankful for the people around me in times like these.
Yes, I am sure I may sound a little odd to be saying that these losses are a highlight of the community. They’re most definitely not. But throughout life we will always have the unexpected bumps in the road or even complete roadblocks. It is what a person does after the initial impact that is the highlight of that occurrence. Sandpoint, in my eyes, has had many impacts, many losses, many unexpected turns of the table but has come through the darkness with such grace and beauty in what people are willing to do to come together as a community, as a family. The togetherness and dedication that each and every member of the family provides will never be forgotten and should never be taken for granted. THAT is what makes it so beautiful.
Sandpoint truly is a blessing to all who take the time to recognize even the smallest of things that our community does for each and every one of us. As a 23-year-old who has grown up here almost my entire life, I was naïve to the extent of support that the youth of the community gains from our surroundings. People are around every corner willing to help. A community that relies heavily on the support of its members is a community that thrives as, not only a town, but a thriving family within itself. That family is what I am so thankful for, and I cannot thank the town of Sandpoint enough.
Among the many reasons why I love this place, the biggest qualifier for me wanting to return is the people. The people who have given so much for truly nothing in return, the people who smile and say “hello” even if you have never officially met, and the people who share the same unconditional love for a place as beautiful as this is the reason I always want to come back. And because of these people who I am so grateful to have in my life, I want to be able to give back to this community as much as I have received over the years. I want to be able to help kids who were just like me to reach their goals and want to do the same thing in the future.
So thank your teachers who spend every day helping us learn something new. Thank your employers who help you create a great work ethic. Thank your coaches who teach you about teamwork and your physical abilities. Thank your parents who stand behind you and your dreams. Thank the organizations that give us opportunities to give back. Thank the small business owners who give a local flare to downtown. And thank the next person you pass walking down the sidewalk. Be thankful for every member of our community, because each and every one is just one puzzle piece of the beautiful masterpiece that we all have come to love—Sandpoint.