Faithfully yours - Life changing attitudes, Part Two


By Neil Strohschein

Neepawa Banner & Press

I am a fourth generation Canadian. My great grandfather left Germany many years ago, settling in the Pleasant Prairie district west of Wetaskiwin, AB. He bought some land and began to build a home for his family and a farm that would support them.

Some of his sons would do as he had done, as would at least one of his grandsons, namely my father. In 1947, he bought three quarter sections of land and began to build a farming operation that remains in our family to this day.

I came kicking and screaming into this world four years later. By the time I arrived, our yard had a three-room house, a barn (half milking cows; half farrowing pigs) a machine shed/car garage, several granaries and one chop bin, used to store feed for the animals. As time passed, we added buildings, corrals and pastures for cattle and hogs.

Most of the work was done on a “labor for labor” agreement. Friends and relatives would help us with building projects and we helped them in return

We worked together on major projects—churches (four of them in our town), country schools, community halls and recreational facilities were all built by volunteer labor. And if a neighbor was in trouble, we dropped everything and went to help out. We worked together, we shared meals together, we played sports together, we prayed together and we wept together. We were a caring people. We lived in a caring community.

Much has changed in rural Canada since the days of my youth. Once thriving villages and towns no longer offer the services they did a generation ago. Farms are getting larger. Farm families are getting smaller. It’s not unusual for a farm family to drive 30 km or more (one way) to access health services, buy parts for farm equipment or even get the mail. And, for the most part, we think nothing of it. That’s life. We’re used to it.

But the caring spirit to which I was introduced in my youth is very much alive. Rural Crime Watch groups are active. Volunteer boards are keeping community halls and local recreational facilities in good repair. Church congregations may be small, but the spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness is just as real in them as it has ever been.

So is our determination to live by these words of St. Paul: “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Valuing others above ourselves and putting their needs ahead of our own is what makes us caring people. Where you have an abundance of caring people, you have a caring community. Caring communities produce youth who will help create caring communities of their own in school, in support groups, in the places where they work and ultimately, in the communities in which they live.

But this attitude cannot be taught. It’s something that we learn by living in a caring community, seeing how people care for others, following their examples and sharing in the satisfaction that comes from knowing that by our acts of loving service, we have helped to increase the level of caring in our neighbourhoods.

Rural communities like ours were built by caring people. They are being maintained by caring people. They will only survive if our children catch the caring spirit and learn how to love and care for others. Many already have. Church, home and school must work together to ensure that all our children develop this important life changing attitude.