Good Distances Make Good Neighbors

Image from a 1908 blizzard in Minnesota. For illustrative purposes.

All this is with apologies to Robert Frost, of course, who did not believe that “good fences make good neighbors” and would be appalled to hear that line quoted as evidence that we ought to keep barriers up between ourselves. Tone is so important!

OK, enough of that. I recently The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin (more information on this book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Childrens-Blizzard-P-S-David-Laskin/dp/0060520760 ) and found it a striking and appalling account of a January, 1888 storm that struck the Great Plains unexpectedly and killed over 200 people, many of them children. The book tells about some of the children, wandering lost in the whiteout conditions of the blizzard, stumbled across houses of people unknown to them. The people took them in and saved their lives.

I got to thinking that these pioneers lived miles apart and yet they could find help or rest at any house they came across. It was a matter of hospitality but also a matter of survival. If you’re lost in such a situation, help would be where you would find it–and you would find it at any house.

I couldn’t help contrasting this community with the ones we live in. We are perhaps 100 feet from a neighboring house, and yet, if someone pounded on a door in this community seeking help or assistance, would they receive it? I know, our times are different; we must be careful; and there are other means of assistance available to us. (This post had its origin in an idle thought I had that if the children in the blizzard had had cell phones, so many of them would not have perished. Silly idea, I know.)

So, perhaps there is something about being close to each other physically that deteriorates a sense of community. So many people around…someone else will take care of the needs.

Or will they?

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