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Rural communities embrace their own, helping to support whatever needs doing with anything from fundraisers to shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk. (Annette Tait/Special to Agweek)

Let's spread some rural values

There's still good in our world, despite what we see in the news. There are people out there pulling together to help others in need and achieving amazing results. And it's not a new phenomenon.

This isn't meant to minimize the recent school shooting in Florida — we are just as shocked, outraged and saddened as the next person. As a nation, we need to put party lines aside and look more deeply into the root causes if we're to find means to stop the senseless killing. There is no single cause or easy solution.

Still, from our perspective, spreading some rural values would be a step in the right direction.

We know rural communities aren't always as welcoming as we'd like them to be — we've written about that. But there are also times when who you are, or aren't, doesn't matter — you live here, and that means you're ours. When someone has major medical expenses, the school sports team needs uniforms, or the fire department needs a new rescue truck. When people in rural towns raise 10 times the dollars or more at a single fundraiser than the number of people who live in their communities.

We see it all the time. People and businesses alike donate meal fixings and items for silent auctions, and people give free-will donations that are far greater than the cost of the meal. Everyone chips in to make sure plenty of proceeds go toward getting the job done.

The little needs get filled as well. The mom who starts a carpool system when the in-town bus route gets cut due to lack of bus drivers. The anonymous donors who make sure every student in school has lunch money in their accounts, no matter the family situation. And the neighbors who shovel walks, mow lawns and take people who no longer drive to the grocery store and medical appointments.

It's inclusion at its best. It's that extended family concept of "no matter how much you irritate me or I don't like you on a daily basis, I'm still going to help you when you need it."

This is something we need to practice day-in and day-out, not just when something major happens. One of our local schools does this with a buddy bench in the elementary playground. Kids know that, if they feel lonely or want someone to play with, they can sit on the buddy bench and someone will join them. It's a way to let the need be known without having to ask.

Wouldn't it be great if life worked that way? If we could suspend judgement and be there for others when they need us? And they would be there for us, too?

Think about it. Are we truly too busy be actively present in our families, with our friends and in our communities? Or do we need to look harder at our priorities?

A very wise woman once said, "The dust will always be there. Your child won't." She wasn't saying it's OK to ignore housework. Her message was to choose wisely. To be present in the moments that, once passed, will never occur again.

This is why it's so important to connect. To invest time in families, friends and neighbors. To be the support system that guides our children to be responsible and accountable. To be listening ears when others need them, and to help those who are struggling become whole again. To be aware, and involved.

We need to become the proverbial village — not just to raise our children, but to take care of all who live here.