People helping people — the right thing to do
Sometimes tough times bring out the best in people. Some even theorize that contending with tough situations is necessary for building human character, forming in people a sense of caring and compassion for one another, and a sense of being in situations together where each person influences the wellbeing of all. Along with that is the idea that if everything always went well for us, and life was without challenges, we would likely become lazy, unfeeling and focused on our own comforts. Ok, I acknowledge that tough times also bring out the worst in some people, moving them to take advantage of the sufferings and vulnerabilities of others. But just as we see in today’s responses to the tragic flooding in south and southeast Texas, in times of tragedy there often is a great wave of caring for people who are caught in emergencies and need help. People respond, wanting to help in practical ways as they are able.
I’m sure that in the months ahead, many opportunities to help victims of Tropical Storm Harvey will be given us; and organizations we work with, the Red Cross, various charities, church relief agencies, civic clubs and others will be helping in the recovery efforts in the communities along the Texas coast, Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and others.
I’m thinking that People Helping People is not a new thing for our generation. We have a long tradition of people responding to the sufferings of others, bringing food, medicine, supplies and comfort to help their neighbors in hard times. We often see a considerable caring response when a family suffers the loss of home and belongings in a fire, or when a catastrophic illness strikes, overwhelming a family’s capacity to cope. We see generous responses to the needs of victims of tornadoes and other violent storms. It is in times like these that we more fully recognize that people need one another, and that we need caring communities and a caring society in which to live. We rightly encourage people to do their best to take care of their needs, and to be able to help others. We encourage the trait of self-reliance combined with caring for others. There also arise times when it is necessary and right and good to accept help from caring neighbors.
I always think of people who were living during the 1930s as the Generation of the Great Depression. It was a time of massive economic collapse, of pervasive unemployment. People just about everywhere faced many challenges to survive and stay afloat. And yet, with all that, with the heartache and insecurities, with the deprivations and having to do with very little, many people found growing up and living during those times to be memorable and positively satisfying. As I have listened to the stories, in my family and in others, one hears them saying things like, people were closer back then, people were there for each other, neighbors helped neighbors, people got together more, we socialized more, even though we didn’t have telephones or TVs or things like that.
I have always enjoyed stories of projects like barn-raisings, when neighbors from all around a farm family would converge for a great day of construction. They might go from foundation to near completion of a barn in a day, all working together. Of course the cooperation and coordination was not only in the construction itself, but in supplying the workers with food and water and other needs. Not only would they find the satisfaction of a new and useful farm building taking shape, but they would often report that, “A great time was had by all!” Something uplifting and satisfying was happening in the fellowship and camaraderie of the work day.
It was not only barnraisings and other major construction projects that would bring farm neighbors together for work. Today we often see people responding to others who have a death in the family, bringing food dishes and offering a caring presence. This happened in the “good old days,” too. Neighbors often stepped in to help when a family suffered illness or injury, not only bringing food and other needed supplies, but milking the cows and feeding the livestock until the farmer could recover, or doing the washing or taking care of the children while the mother in the home was recovering. Neighbors might come with their horses and wagons and put up a hay crop for their ill friend, or harvest a field of corn in the fall of the year. Harvest time often became a major shared labor operation, where the arrival of the thresher brought together groups of families to haul and handle the bundled grain, run the thresher, and bag and store the grain after the threshing and cleaning operation. We face dismaying trends at times in our society; but to me, when we can see neighbor helping neighbor, there is hope for humanity.