When I was 10 years old, a tornado came through and wrecked our farm.
The 300-year-old cathedral pines crashed down all around us, ruining fence lines and clipping the barn. I remember seeing the apple trees my great-grandfather planted get uprooted and fly horizontally through the air. No lives were lost, human or livestock, but it took months and months to get back on our feet. Friends and neighbors pitched in all summer long helping with cleanup.
That tornado taught me some valuable things about rural, small-town living. When you need help, your neighbors pitch in. When your neighbors need help, you pitch in.
Last week I had the honor of meeting a pretty phenomenal group of women in Jordan, Montana. Last year, northeastern Montana got hit with one of the worst and largest wildfires this state has ever seen. Farms and ranches, homes and communities were devastated. The entire county has a population of around 1,200.
All hands were on deck in attempts to save what they could. Every able-bodied human was working the fire line, fueling trucks, fixing meals, looking after the neighbor’s kids; 10-year-old children were literally driving trucks to help out.
Farmers and ranchers from all across the state and even as far away as Oklahoma organized convoys of semis loaded with hay and fencing supplies, feed and fuel, donating necessities to the fire victims.
I was in Jordan to award these ladies a $5,000 grant from the Red Ants Pants Foundation to the Garfield County Fire Foundation.
There was one line in their grant application that struck me so hard and true that I still cannot speak it out loud without getting choked up.
“Jordan, where ‘neighbor’ is a verb.”
This describes the heart of rural living pretty darn well. It resonates with my experience growing up, as well as my 13 years spent in White Sulphur Springs.
Whether it is the rancher who organizes a team roping to raise money for his neighbor who has cancer, or the bake sale that raises enough money for the widow who needs help with funeral expenses, we as neighbors help each other out. We need each other. And it makes us a lot stronger together.
So, a big thank-you to the community of Jordan for redefining "neighbor" for us.
And may we continue "neighboring" in all of our communities, large or small.
Founder of Red Ants Pants, Executive Director Red Ants Pants Foundation, Red Ants Pants Music Festival Producer
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