photo: Hammond Coates
(Note to readers: This is the longest post that I have ever written. I apologize for the length, but the words wouldn’t stop! Yes, I blame it on the words!!!)
I was born and raised in a rural, south central Virginia farming community in the 1950s. We had neighbors who did the same things as we did, we were all farmers. We raised chickens, pigs, cows, had a horse or two on the farm at various times while I was there. We planted corn, tobacco, wheat, oats, soybeans, garden vegetables and had a variety of dogs and cats during my life on the farm.
One of the best parts of that rural lifestyle was what was called, “looking after”. We “looked after” one another’s farm, children, and other living things. I didn’t know any other way than when someone needed “looking after”, we did it, no fanfare, no t-shirts that called attention to what we were doing, we just did it because that was the way we were raised. “Looking after” or caring for someone or something was just what you did in the course of living. It was the way of life.
This “looking after” was in essence, the taking care of of someone or something when there was need in the community. For example: if a person were to get sick and not be able to harvest a crop of some kind, the neighbors would get together and “look after” getting that crop harvested for that family. There was no thought of getting paid to do this, it was just a part of people “looking after” people in need. If need this “looking after” would extend to the preparing the crop for sale or preparing for use by the neighbor. It was a comprehensive “looking after.” And it wasn’t a one-time thing. If needed, the neighbors would do it again and again for the same person and the rest of the community.
Beyond doing for the sick or incapacitated, people would also “look after” the farms of others while they were away, maybe on vacation or visiting family or even going to town to shop. It was a comfort to be able to know that your neighbor was “looking after” your stuff, whatever it may have been. People knew that whatever went on in that community, people had each other’s back, so to speak. I can remember times when suspicious people were confronted as to the purpose that they were on a certain piece of property while the owner was not present.
I remember a time or two that I got into a little “trouble” at the local school where I attended. I was hoping to get back to the house and explain my side of the situation only to find out that I had been “looked after” by a neighbor who was also a teacher at the school and she had already filled my mother in with the particulars of the trouble. (It seems that it really does take a village to raise a child, at least in my community.) Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate that kind of being, “looked after” at the time. But looking back, it was a good thing to have someone “looking after” you, for in times of real need you could count on someone to be there to walk beside you, no matter what the situation. I think I learned that at an early age and it has served me well over these years. I believe that learning this “looking after” concept was the beginning of knowing about trust and grace and mercy as well as love.
There is something very comforting about being “looked after.” I find it comforting to know that someone knows my struggles and is willing to come alongside and help me. This sounds strangely similar to my God!
I know, for some, this sounds like a direct invasion of their privacy. These people feel that’s it’s no ones business what they do or what struggles they may have. That attitude strikes me as a very lonely view of life. Although I must confess that I’ve been there myself. I grew up in a set of standards that said we keep our business to ourselves and we don’t share those outside of the family. But I would hasten to say that we always “looked after” people in our neighborhood and they “looked after” us, when needed.
I realize there is a line that you shouldn’t cross when “looking after” people, but there is a definite need in our world to, once again, “look after” one another.
Before you complain too much about me suggesting that we need to do more “looking after” each other, I’ll confess that I know where my concept of “looking after” each other was reinforced from the earliest times of my life. I know my views expressed here come from my Christian world-view. That may turn you off immediately, I hope not, but that is your freedom. But I know that my God wants me to share what He had given to me and that includes “looking after” those in need or “looking after” those in my sphere of influence, whoever they may be.
I will confess that we Christians must bear some of the blame for the condition of the world around us. I believe that too many Christians have abandoned this concept of personally “looking after” others in favor of a non-personal, anonymous approach through the government. “That’s what I pay taxes for’” some say. I say, “Really?” I believe we have bought into the concept that I don’t need to be personally involved with others as long as I can get someone or something else to do it for me. Sorry, I don’t buy that! (That’s as political as I will get.)
You see, I know I NEED looking after. I cannot live this life I’ve been given without someone, yes, a personal relationship is required here, “looking after” me. I admit that and accept that as a human being. I cannot always lift myself up by my own bootstraps.
Sorry, folks, life does not work that way. I only hope I can “look after” as I have been “looked after”. I know I do not walk alone in this life. Beyond family friends, and acquaintances, I know my God “looks after” me through His Son, Jesus Christ and by the presence of His Holy Spirit. I know He sees and knows me.
Being ‘looked after” is, for me, the greatest expression of love, grace, and mercy that my God shows me.
“Looking after” someone or something, is my expression of trust and hope. Let me encourage you to “look after” someone today. Take care of your friends and those you come into contact with daily. You never know what they are going through and how “looking after” them will, in turn, cause you to see even more “looking after” that is needed. Don’t run from “looking after.” I beg you, stay and “look after” someone.
Don’t fear “looking after,” for in “looking after,” you will be “looked after.”
June 29, 2015
The Path Continues…