Friday, January 21, 2011

Land of Giants

I was raised by giants in a land largely untouched by time.

Except, they weren't giants in the normal sense of the word, but men and women of normal stature. There was little to differentiate them from others of that time and place.

The men were mostly farmers or tradesmen, and often craftsmen of great skill. Most had served their country during the second World War and then come home to marry, to make their living, and to raise their families. Few, if any, had ever seen the inside of a college or university.

The women were almost all wives and the mothers of my friends, yet they were home makers of great skill and prowess.

For someone outside of the community, these giants probably appeared altogether too average. But they were nonetheless giants, at least in terms of their influence on the boy that I was and on those with whom I grew up.

My Dad, who was one of their number, was quick to point to them as examples.

One of the highest compliments Dad could pay was "He'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it." But it went beyond mere generosity to encompass the kind of charity in which neighbour helps neighbour simply because he is a neighbour and help is needed. And neighbour accepts the help of neighbour knowing that they will one day be moved to return the same kind. It was all a normal part of life.

Most deals were sealed with a handshake among friends. Even at the bank, where signatures were required by law, it was the handshake and not the signature that sealed the transaction. Ditto the auto dealer, the implement dealer, and the farmers' co-op.

Signatures were for transactions between strangers. Neighbours trusted neighbours, and woe be unto the neighbour who proved unworthy of that trust.

Almost everybody in the community knew everybody else. And, to a small boy, it seemed that everybody greeted everybody else when they met, even lifting two fingers from the steering wheel to greet one another when they met on the road.

I went back to the community a while back, and there have been changes. Most of the farms have been supplanted by residences. Instead of dairy barns and corn fields, there are houses and not a few McMansions. Yet, even with the changes to the geography the attitudes that permeated my upbringing remain.

Neighbours still look out for neighbours. Neighbours still trust neighbours. And neighbours still greet neighbours when they meet. In these things, it remains a land untouched by time. I pray that it ever remains so.

One of the advantages of having been raised by giants is that one takes on their characteristics. Perhaps, one day I will be a giant too.