2017-02-15 / Columns

Cultural Connections:

From Tin Horns to Twitter

A Culture of Caring

By Joan Lawrence-Bauer

It snowed a lot this week. As I typed a story at my dining room table, a neighbor swung by, plow down, to clear my driveway. He didn’t have to do that. I have two able-bodied teenage boys at home and both are good with a shovel. The driveway’s a short one, right on the street. It’s not like we have miles of shoveling to get to the road. But still, every time it snows this neighbor swings by and drops the plow, clearing the space in front of the mail box, pushing away ridges left by county plows and adding extra room if a guest needs to park. This is what I love about living here in the Catskills.

We share a culture of caring. People genuinely care about other people. Sometimes it’s people they know and like; other times it’s people they don’t really like; sometimes it’s total strangers. But in most cases, when someone around here needs help, people rally to help them. Sometimes that caring is demonstrated in formal, organized ways. Just look at the volunteer fire departments, the people who carry the Margaretville Hospital Auxiliary, the scout leaders, library volunteers, and coaches of your youngest sports teams. That’s a lot of caring.

Then there is Catskill Neighbors, a group of volunteers who care deeply about local senior citizens. Whether it’s taking them shopping or to medical appointments, helping out a bit around the home, getting them out for exercise, or just checking in, these people are the epitome of our culture of caring.

Caring is natural

Casual caring is also endemic to the region. I suppose at one time, survival depended on it. You help the neighbors when their cows get out because one day it might be your cows. In many ways, survival still depends on it. When a car is disabled on the side of the road or an accident has just taken place, passersby don’t just pass by. They stop. They direct traffic, make calls and help in any way they can until those formal caregivers arrive.

Other forms of casual caring include the tomatoes and zucchini I often find on the doorstep during summer months; the offer to pick up the kids at the bus stop; the “all eyes on alert” when a beloved pet goes missing. Perhaps this happens everywhere. I know for sure it happens here. For all of the negative impacts of social media, I’ve also seen how the medium amplifies the culture of caring. A person with a question or in need of an errand need only put a post on Facebook and moments later, there are three or four replies. Public announcements of birthdays, illness, accidents or deaths in the family draw caring comments from around the corner and around the world. Though some might label them trite, it in no way diminishes their meaning for the person or people who receive the caring comments.

Social media revolution

Social media has enabled Go Fund Me, Kickstarter and other types of on-line donation vehicles that demonstrate the culture of care in a whole new way. When a friend wanted to start a new business, others showed they cared about her and the vision by donating to the start up. And in the worst cases, where serious tragedy threatens not only life and safety but also economic stability, people demonstrate their caring with financial support for medical, emergency, and even funeral expenses that would otherwise be borne by a person or family alone.

So in a politically divided country and world, where it sometimes seems we spend too much time arguing and fighting, it’s nice to stop for a moment and realize that under all of that, we live in a culture of caring. It’s one of the most attractive aspects of living in the rural and mountainous place.

Cultural Connections, Tin Horn to Twitter is sponsored by Esther DeJong and her @catskillstylehome. DeJong has embraced the culture of the community she chose to call home and applies her style and grace to its artistic and economic well-being.

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