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Rural community life is dependent on the bond between community members. No matter what is going on politically or economically, people do reach out and make a difference in the lives of their fellow residents.
Recent news articles have featured a modern twist on volunteerism called Make a Difference Day. The nationwide recognition of helping others in need during a specific time period includes individuals giving personal attention to someone who needs help, to groups raising funds for non-profit organizations which help great numbers of needy people.
The practice of helping others without being asked can be traced back to what many local folks called “neighboring.” Whether it meant being an extra hand on the ranch, cooking a meal or just checking in on a neighbor, it was the way the isolated residents of this community made it through difficult times. Neighboring is not in danger of disappearing any time soon.
Advertised volunteer opportunities for local service organizations appear often throughout the year but the best way for a community member to make a difference is to identify the need and offer help. It doesn’t matter how often one can offer assistance, making a connection with someone is the key. A lot of words surround the idea of volunteering – enthusiasm, dedication, commitment or passion — that can turn off community members who don’t feel they have anything to offer. Those words tend to put a damper on one’s interest, as it makes the whole volunteering thing sound like too much time and energy is involved.
Giving back to the community is hardly a new concept. Meeker is filled with more than a few individuals who offer help to others on a daily basis, making a difference in the recipients’ lives. Whether it be needed assistance with transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments or putting out the trash receptacle, every little bit helps.
Settlers in the White River valley got used to helping each other regularly and found that it was best for everyone if they “neighbored” with people.
Taking time to talk with one’s neighbors to see if there is a way to be of help to someone is important. After all, making a difference in the lives of others day in, day out, is one western tradition that isn’t in danger of dying out.