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  Friday January 30th, 2015    

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Harden not your hearts (01/04/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns

“People - people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

In these disturbing times, it seems people are literally repelling people in general. Random suspicion disconnects us from one another as neighbors. Friendly greetings are guarded and often extended with apprehension. Is all this animosity and suspicion warranted?

Being recognized by name and a handshake affirms our self-worth and common bonds with one another. Acknowledging those you don’t know personally, who cross your path often during weekly routines, gives them a boost and it makes you feel good as well. It’s hard to say “Hi” without smiling. As an old saying goes, “If you see a face without a smile give it one of yours.”

Our children have been frightened into looking at strangers as predators. Sadly, dangers and risks seem to have become epidemic, or is it just that today’s advanced news media sensationalizes incidents that were once swept under the carpet or too far from home for the brief evening news?

Parenting is a lifelong process of letting go. Of course, children must be well informed, taught to sense danger and use common sense when they find themselves in precarious and risky situations. Yet, there has to be a limit to negative input, so a child’s trusting and amiable nature isn’t completely destroyed.

“Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine” is another song lyric. Hateful attitudes and racial bias spoken in the home rub off on the younger generation. It can turn them hateful, narrow-minded, and angry. World peace? What a challenge!

I remember, way back during my upbringing in the fifties and sixties, how there were a few Lewiston residents who may have been slightly off-plumb, perhaps oddities to strangers who didn’t know them. Herby lived in my neighborhood, across the street from the 12-grade school. His lanky, wild-eyed presence may have intimidated some people.

Herby had conversations with himself. He would venture across the street to visit us kids when we were playing outside. He never harmed anybody. I wonder, how would that scenario play out today?

Then there was Harley, a colorful, comical man who faithfully worked many years for the creamery on my street. We kids often snuck into his damp concrete space, smelling of sour, warm milk, and joked with Harley. Parents had no reason to say “Beware!” Through his final years he resided in his simple house next to the Lewiston Clinic, bothering no one. Pat and I remained friends with Harley until his death.

Every small town has their special, out-of-the-ordinary citizens, not to be translated into dangerous, predatory, or a threat to others, and usually honest and kind to those who treat them well. With sentimental regards, I bring intricate pieces of my upbringing to mind. Harley and Herby will always be there to bring a smile to my face.

Faith-filled people are more at ease because they entrust their family’s fate during trying circumstances to God’s will. You see it time and time again; one mother and father go to great measures to keep their kids from harm, stifling their freedom to enjoy their childhood, while their neighbor’s youngsters seem to run wild and are always getting into mischief. You guessed it – the ones who get hurt or have difficulty coping with society are often the over-protected and coddled. I recently heard this wise remark on the radio: “God doesn’t build a bridge over our troubles. He gives us a tunnel through them.”

I’ve said to myself on occasion, how can I write about nature’s splendor, brotherly love, and deer prints in the snow with so much weighing on my mind? Then, a new day dawns and all is well, exuberance restored. Our faith in people can endure a few setbacks without being obliterated!

People do need people…but some just haven’t realized it yet.

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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