Many of us have become very cynical and protective over the last couple of decades. I remember when I was young, our neighborhood went far beyond the street we lived on, and we knew all our neighbors by name. Life seemed much simpler back then, and there was an implicit trust of everyone in your circle. One of the things that may have helped this feeling of ease was rarely talking about politics amongst friends and neighbors. Maybe that privacy was a good thing for relationships.
I grew up in Massachusetts, and when I married and had children, we moved to New Hampshire, hoping for a safer and more stable environment for our children to grow in. It was the right decision at the time. But nothing stays the same forever, and New Hampshire, especially the Southern tier, morphed into an extension of Massachusetts. We have learned to adapt but not easily.
This past year we purchased a cabin on a pond in Central Maine. The experience has been two-fold, with the peace and tranquility of the pond a welcome change from home and the people a throw-back to an era long ago. The latter has restored a positive feeling about people we have not felt in some time.
The first experience came the day we launched our boat for the first time. I could not get the engine to turn over, and strangers immediately came to our aide. People we did not know could not have been more helpful, and they did get us started and on our way to a summer of boating fun on the pond.
The next was the day we built a new deck on the cabin. We had hired a young man who lived on the pond to help me with the heavy lifting. He and I got started about an hour into the project when two of our new neighbors stopped by. I thought they were stopping by to see what we were doing, but I was wrong. They had their tools with them and spent the entire Saturday helping build our deck. Who does that? Not folks from Massachusetts or New Hampshire, but Pond People in Maine do this kind of thing every day.
This past week, our cousin who lives on the other side of the pond fell, and she shattered her arm in two places. Her summer is ruined. Our neighbor heard about the accident and asked us to give her a ride to our cousin’s place so she could deliver a wonderful meal she had prepared for them. She took the time to shop and spend part of her Sunday cooking a meal for strangers needing some help. Who does that? Pond People in Maine, that’s who.
People helping people. Strangers lend a hand because it is needed and not asked for. This is the way it used to be when you ventured past your front gate to visit your neighbors. I am not a believer in taking a community to raise kids, but I am a firm believer in the strength of friendship and community being far more potent than going it alone. I am sad we had to come to the middle of Maine to find that kind of community again, but I am glad we made the trip up I95!