It’s possible that something may have been “in the water,” but this is purely speculative. A chance exists that a population group has somehow determined to corporately embrace and embody the notion to “pay it forward.” I cannot say for sure.
For those acquainted with the ancient saying, the impetus may find its genesis of behavior inspired by the immutable gem to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Some among us may have particular knowledge of a specific mandate to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” even as we might then “weep with those who weep.” Further exploration might uncover apostolic admonitions and the guiding principles to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,” coupled with the overarching reminder that “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above.”
Take a selective tour through the Good Book and one might encounter a record of the early Christian community having “all things in common,” or of selling their possessions and goods and, in turn, distributing “the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Read further and one discovers how the collective faithful were described as “of one heart and soul.”
Now residents of Ottawa and Putnam County for almost 30 years — hard to believe — my family and I have become acutely aware of certain communal characteristics emanating from this “neck of the woods.” They may not be unique to this locale, but they stand out for us, and we cannot but take note.
Hardly overpopulated, these friendly confines evidence just over a baker’s dozen worth of scattered towns and villages, somewhat parochial in nature, especially given defined school districts and aggregate acres of farm ground that partition them.
Over the course of living here nearly three decades, we’ve witnessed an increasing number of what can only be described as life-altering events affecting individuals, families and sometimes entire communities. What is particularly compelling is how, though land and a few miles of roadway might formulate a measurable boundary, specific circumstances present themselves and residents collectively rise up and “stand in the gap!”
Certainly, quaint communities such as those in our county, rally around themselves with much mutual aid and relief when trials and tragedies surface. On the other hand, when achievements and successes are to be heralded, these same communities will respond with strident celebrations and unhindered praise.
But then there are those occurrences that achieve an elevated status. These manage to transcend any such real or imagined divisions and generate, in their place, unprecedented depths of bonding and mutuality.
This can be noticed, for example, when a high school sports team, even a league opponent, has state-tournament success. Any animosity is set aside, regardless of school district, and spirited encouragement takes place as throngs buy tickets, join caravans, and even line the roads with encouraging streamers, signs and banners.
On the other side of the spectrum, when word gets out of a personal hardship such as a medical diagnosis or a devastating house fire bringing major financial burdens, people seem to come “out of the woodwork” and respond vigorously to the cause.
Certainly 2007 will be seared in our combined memories as those affected by the destructive forces of that flood in turn were nearly overwhelmed by the voluminous aid, monetarily and otherwise, that came pouring into impacted communities. Businesses, organizations and residents from all over our county and beyond, following the 100-year flood of the Blanchard, reacted to people’s plight with glad and generous hearts.
Never to be outdone, barely a year can go by without hearing of a similar disaster eliciting compassionate responses from county residents who “step up to the plate” to give of their time, talents and, most of all, treasures. Among the incidents are the devastations due to tornadoes, derechos, disease diagnoses, and yes, even a most unwelcomed and unanticipated death.
And so it should come as no surprise, in the wake of this most recent and most unfortunate fatal automobile accident on the Friday morning past, that an outpouring of heartfelt and benevolent response would be forthcoming. The sudden death of the young mother would leave a gaping hole for her surviving husband and her four young children.
Such a loss sends a family into uncharted waters filled mostly with a wellspring of tears from those who knew her well, right alongside those who barely knew of her. All of us from inside the O-G community united with those stretching across any perceived borders grieve wholeheartedly, but who know what to do. We join compassionately to “weep with those who weep,” we join forces as “one heart and soul,” and we join hands to be counted, and yes, humbly counted among those, “generous, and ready to share!”
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com