Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Community

I love epiphanies.  When one occurs, it just makes at least the whole day better, and sometimes even carries over for a week or so.

Yesterday I had one.  It didn't involve work, at least not directly.

It went something like this:  "It's time to recognize that we are no longer on our own."

We used to live in the suburbs.  We had our four tenths of an acre, surrounded by trees, sitting across from a park filled with baseball and softball fields.  The street was noisy and there was lots of traffic.  We had gardened the plot until there really wasn't much more to be done and the inside of the house was going to be next, just for something to do on weekends.

We didn't know a single neighbor.  Not one.  I could wave at one guy, whose name is Arthur, as I drove by his house.  Aside from that, nothing.  Oh, there was also Lance who lived behind us and hated us because our fence had been located on his property for twenty years.  He would have a few beers and come out once in awhile and rail at me over that.  I didn't really care.  Minnesota has beneficial use laws, so technically the property was mine. I found out that Lance had died, although I only found out after we moved.

We lived there for fifteen years.  And knew absolutely no one.

Two years ago, we packed up and moved to the country.  We bought five acres that had a house, a barn, a second large garage and then acquired two horses.  We moved in our own and spent the first few months waving at the few cars that passed by since we knew that most of the drivers lived on our gravel road.  One or two waved back.  What a thrill!

One day, not long after we moved in, a couple of the neighbors rode their horses up the driveway to introduce themselves and meet our horses.  Then we started getting invitations to various places for drinks, barbecues and so forth.  And then we found ourselves offering help when needed.  The ladies down at the corner needed some hay brought down from another barn.  Someone else was looking for hay.  Somebody needed a little extra shoveling help.  The list of friends grew, even though we couldn't even see most of our neighbors' houses.

Yesterday, I was looking at Facebook pictures of the neighbors all helping each other stack hay.  We couldn't help because we were borrowing a trailer from one of the neighbors in order to pick up two hundred bales that I needed for our own horses.  I did realize, with a sigh, that I'd be called on to do something down the road.  In fact, we're helping to take care of the petting zoo and kennel down on the corner over the coming weekend.

That's when the epiphany arrived.  It was a negative at first.  "If the ladies down the road couldn't take care of themselves, then they need to hire some help instead of relying on the rest of us to pitch in."  No, it doesn't sound nice.  And yet, that's what the suburbs and cities do to us.  "Leave me alone," is the standard neighbor cry.  "I never ask for help and never want to be asked" is the statement of the day.

Then I realized that the truth is, we now belong to a community.  People work together to make their lives better.  None of us is rich.  None of us has the resources to carry on alone.  We do our best to manage our own acreages and don't actually have to have contact on a regular basis.  The thing is, we do it anyway.  We borrow stuff from each other, we return it when we're done, we pop on over to the neighbor's to mow or shovel snow or load hay because we know that they appreciate the help.  That's how communities work.

We are no longer on our own.  We have actual neighbors in an actual neighborhood.  It is a little bit tiring on a social level because my community-serving muscles are atrophied from years of living in cities and hiding away.  Working them just takes a little time, though.  In the meantime, having neighbors makes me smile.
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