This post was written as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.
It was late one evening as we were driving home from checking cows. Everyone was tired. That’s when we saw our neighbors’ cows were out on the road. We immediately started to help gather them.
It’s what neighbors do. It is a lesson we all learn growing up in agriculture, and one we are working hard to teach our own children. We help others. Period.
I’ve seen neighbors stand in the gap for each other over the years. They’ve formed volunteer fire departments, served on fair boards, and carried caskets at funerals.
My neighbor sold me my first cow. Over the years, neighbors helped me practice speeches, assisted with science fair projects, and never told me no when I was selling a fund-raising item.
I’ve seen neighbors step in after a fire with a place to stay, after a baby with a casserole for the new parents, and after a death with the advice that helped save a legacy. Recently, I had a neighbor offer to fight a city official on my behalf after my dog was picked up and taken to the pound. I declined but appreciated the neighborly sentiment.
The bond is often particularly strong in rural areas, because often a neighbor is all we have. Still, we all know instances where those bonds get tested when ideals don’t exactly mesh or communications break down, or worse yet, pride gets in the way.
All I know is to teach my children that to have a good neighbor, you need to be a good neighbor. And, to practice what you preach. It starts with the fact that we are better together. Our relationships are deeper and our lives richer when we help others — no matter how tired we are, and no matter how many cows are out.