Peo­ple help­ing peo­ple — the right thing to do

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - COMMUNITY - JERRY NI­CHOLS Colum­nist Ed­i­tor’s note: Jerry Ni­chols, a na­tive of Pea Ridge, is an award-win­ning colum­nist, a re­tired Methodist min­is­ter with a pas­sion for his­tory, mem­ber of the Pea Ridge Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion and vice pres­i­dent of the Pea Ridge His­tor­i­cal

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.

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