The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


July 21, 2021

Last Sunday Evening, I was writing my weekly newspaper column, when I started getting notifications about some bad weather coming our way. My wife sent me out to get the laundry off the line before it hit, but otherwise I thought about the scary looking weather map I spotted online. The wind and hail kicked in not long after that. About the time I finished writing my articles for the week, the power went out. My kids and I watched the hail fall while various odds and ends blew past our house and down the road. When the world outside finally settled down, I got a call about a couple of windows that had been broken at the church. My kids and I piled into the car and went to inspect the damages. Before long, we were driving around, checking in on seniors we know around the community, and helping with cleanup. During that time, I saw something beautiful happen. I watched as people all over town began showing up at their neighbors’ houses to help. Folks were out with chainsaws cutting up downed trees and clearing the roadways. Flatbeds and pickups were loaded with branches to be hauled to the dump. Neighbors fixed or covered broken windows, swept up debris, and pitched in wherever they could. It was wonderful.

Former president Ronald Reagan once said: “Our American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor has always been one of our greatest strengths and most noble traditions.” That tradition is alive and well in our small town. I believe it is a big part of what makes Big Sandy such a special place to live. Neighbors have a habit of taking care of each other. Fundraising meals, auctions, raffles, pitching in with farm work for injured and sick folks, and so many other efforts are expressions of that tradition. I saw it over and over when neighbors were more concerned about the other guy’s wellbeing than their own messy yards. There is a weird thing with this sort of tradition: it can easily stop existing if we let it.

For this tradition to evaporate from our lives, the only thing we need to do is nothing. The problem is that nothing is really easy to do. If we don’t make it a habit to check in or offer a hand to each other in times when storms roll through, pandemics hit, families experience losses, or whatever else comes our way, then it will simply stop being a tradition. Even more important is teaching our kids to live this way. One of the most impressive things about the storm cleanup last week was how many parents I saw taking their kids out to help. We have to explain to our children that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not just a slogan, it’s a way of life.

There is one other important bit to this idea. Many folks I know hate getting help from anyone. I don’t blame them. It’s hard to feel like you need help or that you owe someone. These same folks are fast to offer a hand of help to anyone around them. The tricky part with help is that sometimes, we have to accept it. In accepting help from folks who offer it or look for opportunities to love through service, we give them something hard to grasp. Serving makes you better. By letting folks serve you, you give them a chance to grow spiritually and personally. I’m not suggesting that we should become helpless or have no pride in our self -sufficiency. Rather, I am saying that for folks to help each other, someone needs to be helped. We all get our turn when the storm hits our family. Part of community is letting your neighbors offer you their hand.


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