Sanders: Appreciating neighbors
How has your area landscape changed over the past few years? Is your neighborhood filling in or thinning out? After years of declining population, we are growing again. Our rural area has had the good fortune to have several young people and their expanding families move in. This fact may be contrary to the national trend but it’s certainly welcome here.
We have new neighbors. A young man who grew up here, went to college and returned to farm, and moved a house onto his property. We appreciate his presence and his house lights. In the past few weeks a couple settled in to a farm over the hill from us. Two other families with previous ties to the community have come back now that their circumstances allow. Scattered amongst them are two additional couples and they all have something in common — a love for the rural life and more importantly, an understanding of what that means. Self-reliance and responsibility are two necessary traits for enjoying country life.
These youngsters and other newcomers are learning from the older generation the meaning of being a neighbor. Without being asked, farmers who have tractors and the capability of moving snow from yards, drive into neighbors’ yards, move the snow and then go about their business. They don’t have to call and inquire if they can “trespass.” The neighbors don’t have to ask for snow removal; it just is done. No contracts, no money is involved, and a word of thanks is sufficient. That is the way it’s done in the “Old West.”
The “New West” residents don’t seem to know how to be neighborly. They tend to think doing so is being intrusive, nosy or some other form of annoyance. A case in point was Ed, who had lived along a rural road for many years, started seeing his neighborhood fill up with people who would not wave let alone appreciate any help. One day as Ed was driving to his home, he came across a young boy who had wrecked his bicycle. Ed stopped to help. The boy’s father drove up right then, gave Ed a look that could kill, grabbed the boy and his bike and took off. No word of thanks, no greeting, no appreciation … in short no acknowledgment for Ed’s neighborliness. Isn’t that sad?
It is occurrences like this that makes us leery of the “New West,” absentee landowners. Many of them are not residents more than a few weeks per year, if ever. Most have no sense of community nor desire to participate in anything that would indicate being neighbors. Maybe they came from a city and jobs where they were smothered in human contact and want to just hibernate. That is understandable.
However, if they want to be left alone and have no contact with others, they may find that when they need help, it is no longer available. Neighboring works both ways.
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Editor’s note: This editorial first appeared in the Midwest Messenger.