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Columnist

Neighbors matter

I grew up on a farm where our closest neighbors — unless you count my grandparents, who were on the same farm — were a mile away, but we knew them. And we could count on them. Judy Landrum often drove us to church since my mother didn’t drive. The Hullingers sometimes came to get us for 4-H meetings at their house. Their youngest son Benji grew up to take over the farm and for many years would drop in on my Uncle Gene just to chat and see if he needed anything.

Neighbors shared the clothes their children had outgrown. I remember bags of clothing being dropped off just in time for the beginning of the school year. — Please forgive me for not appreciating the pants of double-knit polyester with the seam stitched down the front. — And we did the same when our children got suddenly six inches taller overnight just after I had purchased new clothes for them.

The Amish neighbors across the pasture from my mother, who moved back to the farm a few years ago, regularly stop by to visit or help out. My mother’s animals have gone down to visit them when the ground got too bad for her to take care of them for awhile. When she went on an extended trip, their children came every day to make sure the animals were fed and milked. They sometimes bring fresh bread or other goodies when they stop by. In return, my mother shares her eggs and other products from the farm with them.

When we lived in military housing in Virginia, I knew most of my neighbors. We were all in the same boat (ha, Navy humor) with husbands gone for months at a time. Our kids played together on the playground in the middle of the complex or on the sidewalks in front of our houses.

It was no big deal if someone wanted to run to the grocery store without three kids, two car seats, a diaper bag, and three years worth of snacks in tow. You’d just ask a neighbor to watch them for a few minutes.

When finances were low and cooking the same foods got to be too much, splitting a pizza or two fed more than one family and provided a welcome time to talk about something other than toy trucks and cartoons over dinner.

During hurricanes, we would hunker down together while the Navy, in its infinite wisdom, kept our husbands on the base. Our children entertained each other with, gasp, no TV.

It was a neighbor who let us know that our children were being dropped off at the bus stop having not been in car seats and left out in the cold to wait. I would have never known.

Fast forward to today, I barely know the names of some of my neighbors — enough to say, “hi,” in the hallway or on the sidewalk. Some of them are even overtly hostile and the turnover is pretty regular. That makes it hard to be neighborly.

Fortunately for me, my neighbors down the hall are my son and daughter-in-law. That’s been really handy for stopping in to feed their cat — a story I will tell another day — or borrowing a cup of sugar. But mostly it’s just nice to know they’re there if I need them or if they need us.

Yesterday, the neighbors at Creston Automotive saved the day by kindly shared their WiFi with us so we could get the newspaper finished when our internet evaporated for a few hours. Thanks, neighbor.

We’ve started working on stories for the Progress edition in March. The theme for the year is friends and neighbors. We want to get acquainted with some of the lesser known people in our five county area and help you get to know them, too. I like to say that everyone has a story. Your neighbor probably does. Let us know who we should talk to and get stories from.

Let’s all be old-time neighbors again, it matters.

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Tell me what matters to you at rsmith@crestonnews.com.

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