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What happened to neighbors?

A neighbor is “a person who lives near another,” according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Its meaning took in a lot more territory when I was a kid growing up on an East Alabama farm in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Anyone who lived within a mile or two of our house was considered a neighbor. We visited each other, shared meals together, worshipped together and responded to each other’s needs when calls for help were made. 

Our closest neighbor was an elderly couple who relocated to a farm adjoining ours after World War II. 

They had reared a family on a remote mountainside farm several miles away, relying on a pair of oxen and hand-made implements. The farm was a gift from two sons who served in the U.S. Army during the war. 

Neither husband or wife could read or write, and he relied on my mother to read their mail and correspond with family members. 

Both also had health issues and would ring a dinner bell to let us know when they were ill and needed medical assistance.

To entertain them on Saturday nights, my family would visit them and take along a battery radio. We would sit on the front porch and listen to the Grand Opry and share family histories. 

Such settings provided us kids a clear picture of the sacrifices our ancestors had to make to survive two world wars and a Great Depression.

Another couple the age of my parents lived on a farm one-half mile away on the banks of Fox Creek. Both were hard workers and outgoing neighbors. They were especially accommodating to my brothers and me, as we crossed paths often while using the creek to camp, fish and swim. 

Their frame farmhouse was something to admire. It stood on ground that once provided the foundation for a water-powered gristmill. An artesian well located at a higher elevation than the house provided running water. A wooden trough entered the kitchen through one wall and exited through another wall.

Being a neighbor, in the broadest sense of the word, was a way of life that has slipped away for the most part. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we’d devote more time and effort to being a neighbor and less time to being a recluse?