Rules to Live By

When you live on an island or even in a small community, you cannot get away with treating people poorly, taking advantage of others’ generosity, or being a scumbag in general. You know the values we teach our children: Respect others, be kind, always do your best, lend a hand when needed, don’t keep score when doing favors, have empathy for others, don’t judge, keep your word, say please and thank you, be a good person, and the golden rule, don’t gossip—ever!
I think you get the picture. You have to remember that you live in a community where you’re going to see the same people in town, at the grocery store, at the post office, at restaurants, or just at community functions, and people have very long memories when you’ve done something dishonorable. I remember several incidents that have horrified me. One was just over a month ago, at the hairdresser. I was waiting, and in one of the chairs, getting his hair cut, was a man filling the hairdresser in on an incident involving another member of the community. Instead of keeping his mouth shut, he described the person and their property in detail, including the part of the island where they lived and what they drove. His version of events had me horrified.
Now, of course, as I was hearing everything, so were countless others in the salon that day. I was reeling because I knew exactly the person the man was talking about. He never used their name, but he didn’t have to, because his description told me who it was. I won’t share the details. I felt ill as I listened, because this happened to me so many years ago, when someone made a private issue public and then twisted it to their benefit. Don’t do this, please! If you have an issue with someone, that’s between you and that person and no one else—not your mother, minister, or postal worker. Service providers are not there for you to share personal details about others, which are then often passed along. You know the saying: Tell two friends, they tell two, and by the time the story actually gets back to the person you’re slamming, it no longer resembles the truth. And that person you’ve slammed, how many doors are now closed to them?
The following are some areas of concern here on the island:

  • A main one is trying to cut in a ferry line. Seriously, it happens. I still remember the last time an elderly couple tried to cut in. It nearly caused a riot, with horns honking and people yelling, and a big semi was applauded by everyone for swinging over and cutting off the driver, preventing the couple from getting on the ferry. Don’t do this. We all know who you are, even if you’re a visitor. Not all BC Ferries terminals on the islands are manned with personnel to keep the scumbags in check, but residents will!
  • Your word is your bond. If you say something, stand by it. Don’t try to twist it down the road to suit you, and if you screw up, then apologize. This is a conversation I had with my son just last week in an era in which everyone is afraid of being sued. What people want is for you to say “I’m sorry.” Don’t run away and pretend you didn’t break your word, because running away, denying, and lying gets people angry—and then you likely will get sued.
  • Have you all heard the term “island time”? Well, it doesn’t apply to professionals or appointments. Actually, it doesn’t apply any time you’re meeting someone. If your appointment is at nine o’clock, show up at nine o’clock, not at ten after or sometime that week. You won’t get asked back.
  • Another is thinking you can overcharge just because you can or because you’re the only business on the island that provides a certain service. Yes, some businesses do this, but they won’t be in business for long. Just remember that many companies actually deliver to the island for free, and online shopping is picking up in ease. Remember the term “customer service”? There are also many professionals on the mainland who provide the same services, and they’re just a ferry ride away.
  • Crosswalks are there for a reason. Walk the ten feet you need to and actually push the crossing light. The roads are not well lit, and especially in high-traffic seasons with many visitors arriving, the roads can be chaos. Walking out in front of someone is likely to get you injured or killed, not to mention the stress you’ll cause to the driver who hasn’t seen you. Common sense goes a long way! So does looking both ways and making sure both lanes have stopped before you cross.
  • Stereotyping is also a problem. Don’t start grouping people into categories. It happens all the time here. If you have an issue with someone, your issue is with that person, not with all tenants, all Americans, all members of a certain race, all single mothers, all gay people, all young males who live in a shack and drive a barely running vehicle, etc. The list goes on, and you get the picture. Keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Pay your tradespeople when they complete work for you! They too have rent to pay. This trend of paying in thirty days or whenever you get around to it is a good way of getting yourself on a list the tradespeople actually make of people who don’t pay or who have to be chased after for payment. Nobody likes to do that anywhere for any reason.
  • Then there are the tradespeople themselves. We have an island of highly skilled tradespeople, but at the same time there are those who call themselves tradespeople and are anything but. Get references, and know that if you hire Billy Bob, your local good ol’ boy, because he charges half the price, doesn’t build to code, and cuts corners to suit your budget, you’ll end up paying far more in the long run. And God help you if you then try to sell your place while covering up shoddy work. It will come back on you and the realtor who sells your home. Even building inspectors miss a lot. They can’t see what’s behind the walls, and therein lies an entire hornet’s nest of problems.
What this all basically comes down to is to treat people how you want to be treated. Don’t hold a grudge, and be forgiving. Island rules for a happy community apply everywhere. Wouldn’t keeping these rules in mind change communities for the better? Remember, our kids see how we treat others. Be the kind of role model our kids all deserve.


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  • Deb Kerstner says:

    I “ll never live on an island not in less there is one in Alabama but I get what your saying the same goes for small towns. I love your books! I own and have read almost every book that you have written. I have just finished In the Moment and The Parker Sisters but first I read Married in Montana. I am not getting a lot of the things I need to do done because I can’t put my tablet down in fact I just loaded my Amazon card so that I can get some more books about the last 3 Friessen Family books. Keep them coming! Thank you for your books.

  • Susan says:

    Really thoughtful post! We may be moving to an island, so this is timely and well-done. Good advice! Thank you ?

  • Jodie Esch says:

    You made excellent points. When you live in a small community, one has to learn to be discrete. I discovered that while living in a small town in the NWT. Thanks for sharing.

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