It happened the other day. It’s funny how things so simple can remind us of things so meaningful, of those sweets tucked inside our hearts and unknowingly treasured.
I went to the co-op. For you nonfarmer types, it is the Farmers Exchange where supplies are purchased at the most reasonable prices.
“Where’s Tink?” asked the lovely woman at the register, smiling cheerfully. “He’s the one who normally comes in.”
We exchanged talk on Tink’s whereabouts, then I placed the order for several bags of horse feed.
She started to punch it into the register and paused.
“Now, y’all get the Triple Ten, don’t you?”
That meant a lot. For in the South, which my family has called home for 11 generations, neighbors mean a lot. Where I come from, neighbors don’t just live next door. They live within a 25-mile radius.
This woman knew us by name and cared enough to remember what kind of horse feed we buy.
“Let me hug you ‘bye,’” she said, coming around the counter. “We just enjoy y’all so much.”
In a couple of minutes, I pulled around to the back and waited to have the feed loaded. Four vehicles were waiting and in three of the trucks were women. One pulled up to have her truck loaded with hay. Another, driving a Ford dually pulling a small trailer, was given a large pallet of horse feed.
That meant a lot. For in my South, that of a rural landscape, women pitch in to do whatever needs doing.
Last summer, Tink and I were on our way to morning service during revival and passed a farm where the pasture was being bush-hogged on a steamy late July day. But it wasn’t a deeply tanned man who drove the tractor. It was a pretty young girl, about 15 or so, with a long blonde ponytail trailing down her back. Cautiously, she drove the big John Deere, checking behind her as her father stood, his arms crossed, nodding while he watched.
“She looks like a homecoming queen, doesn’t she?” I remarked to Tink who watched with such admiration.
“That’s amazing,” he replied. “Very impressive.”
When we came back by after church around lunch, she was finishing up and heading toward the barn.
“She’s finished,” Tink announced.
“Finished with that. She’s probably got other chores now.”
As I was pulling out of the Farmers Exchange the other day, I noticed a large sign posted on a light pole in the parking lot with reference to Isaiah. I made a note to myself to look that Scripture up, but I had a notion I knew which one it was. It was one that people — neighbors — use to encourage each other when droughts come, when rivers flood and when disease kills the crops and the livestock.
And it meant a lot. Because in my South, people believe in the ancient truths of the Bible and count on each other for prayer when tribulations come.
I stopped next at the grocery store. As I started in, a woman passed then stopped.
“Louise?” she asked, making a common mistake of mixing me up with my sister whom I favor.
“No, I’m Ronda.”
“Oh, Ronda!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never met you, but I’ve met your husband!”
That began a friendly introduction followed by a neighborly conversation. We did not know each other, but I had heard her husband was battling cancer. For him, a man I never met, I prayed.
For that’s what neighbors do. She lives a ways away from us but, probably somewhere in time, one of my kin married one of hers.
Tink says often how he loves this South of mine: a place of hospitality, neighborliness, hard work and prayers.
The other day I was reminded why my South is such a treasure.
And that is invaluable.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.