As a kid, I remember watching my dad and our neighbors climb into their straight trucks, combines and tractors to go help after hearing that another farmer had been in an accident or diagnosed with some illness that prevented them from being able to get their crops in. I still have a picture in my mind of the line of trucks and the small handful of combines staggered across someone’s cornfields late into the night. It was an incredible sight. And one likely to be remembered by everyone involved.
At the time, and even up until a few years ago, I believed that kind of generosity only happened in a time of crisis. Why else would another person turn their back to their own work to help another finish theirs?
Fast-forward to life in Petersburg. People pitching in to mow the cemetery didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t shocked to see a pretty sizable volunteer fire department. But I was caught off guard several weeks ago when a few light bulbs needed changed at St. John’s. Don’t get me wrong, this was no easy feat. These are lights that hang from above the alter. They’re high up there.
It’s no surprise that finding a way to reach them took some doing; let alone finding someone to climb up to change them. But, there happens to be a few parishioners with some extra initiative who went looking to solve the problem of patchy darkness during Mass. I happen to know one of the “volunteers” pretty well and while he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having to climb the ladder, he was willing to give it a shot. Later I found out that he wasn’t the only one. Actually, a few younger men (who don’t even live in Petersburg) pitched in to help too.
By the time it was over, it sounded like there was close to a half-dozen people changing a few light bulbs…which could make for a pretty bad joke: How many St. John’s parishioners does it take to change a light bulb? Oh, about five or six. Okay, not very funny but the truth remains that people—more than one individual—were willing to drop what they were doing to help.
Another example, hitting closer to home than the light bulbs, happened just a week ago. This same close acquaintance of mine who helped at the church was asked by a local farmer to help haul silage. Not being overly familiar with silage, I soon learned that when there’s silage to be cut, it takes a small army. Because it needs to be done today. So I drove him to his tractor and wagon and went on my way.
On the short journey home, I met the silage cutter, a few tractors pulling wagons, and some other equipment heading toward the same field. Those memories of people coming together to help others in need came flooding back. Only this time, it wasn’t a crisis. It was neighbors being neighborly. What surprised me even more was that when someone needed to quit early to help at a local wedding reception, another person stepped in to take his place and help finish the job.
Neighbors helping neighbors, asking for nothing but a beer or two in return. Now that’s my kind of town.