I come from a farming community nestled in the northwest Georgia mountains. The foothills of Appalachia, where people have lived off the land, farmed, and hunted for generations. You would say we are a ‘close-knit community’. A place where, when introductions are made, people say, “How’s your Momma and ‘em?” and they mean it. That simple question begs to say, I know much more than your name. I know you.
Sometimes it takes leaving a place to recognize how it has shaped you. In my college years, I learned that growing up in a rural southern farm community was not the norm. My parents proudly moved me into my dorm room with a livestock trailer as other students were unloading from mini-vans and u–haul trucks. Home for me was more than a singular family building, it was a place. A land. A farm. A community of people who depended on each other not only for survival but for comfort as well. The neighbor you helped in the hay field, went to church with and worked with daily. You knew what kind of car they drove, what their dogs looked like and the annoying odd habits that we all try to hide. When you live that closely to people, a kinship develops. A knowing and loving of a person. A bearing in all that friend’s glory and imperfections. There was a sense of togetherness, not necessarily likeness, that bonded us.
We don’t live much like this these days. We have our single family homes, soccer schedules, jobs and politic parties that keep us divided and we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. During a time where we need each other, being together is dangerous.
We have been robbed of gathering, of celebrating and grieving together. Thus, many of our interactions have been mainly on social media. I have felt the divide happening. Seen and experienced people sizing each other up based on their most recent post or political comment. It is tearing friends and families apart. I have wrestled with this. I have feared it and felt stuck in it. Do I delete my account? Do I become more vocal on social media on issues I am passionate about? The answers feel muddy.
My next door neighbors on the farm are in their 70’s. Their house is a stone’s throw away from mine. They grew up in the community. Share-cropping. Farming. Working the land. They knew my great grandfather who I never met. Every evening they end their day by sitting on the front porch in their rocking chairs watching my kids play in the yard. Every person that drives down our road, they wave at and smile. Sometimes people stop and sit on the porch and catch up on life. I find myself there a lot lately. It feels like going back in time. The pace slows, I slow. I step away from driving or rushing the conversation and just sit and be with my neighbors. Time with them earns me stories. Stories from their life. Stories they tell of my family and their own. Stories of hardship and good times. Stories of community. A connection that just can’t be found through a computer screen or zoom call. To see people’s faces, to hear their voices. And for us to ask the question “How’s your momma and ‘em?”