I Love My Neighbors

I think in the midst of living, I’ve stumbled upon the answer to world peace – or at least what makes Belgrade such a great place to live. It’s such a simple thing; almost incidental. But time and again, don’t we find the simple things are often taken for granted or completely overlooked? Simple is often hard.

My husband and I recently attended an informational meeting on a current hot topic. It was a well-run meeting and offered information we could understand and support. There was a movie, then a very impassioned panel who shared stories and answered questions. In the end, they announced the formation of a new local activist group whose intention is to see the law defined through the courts.

These are educated, well-spoken people, who are willing to dedicate personal resources to further an idea they strongly believe in. Defining law through the courts will add much needed strength to this debate and clarify the legality of certain requirements, where currently, much is left to interpretation. It will cause enough disruption to the daily flow of some institutions that things will have to change. However, it will pit one person against another in lawsuits; neighbor against neighbor, per se, and something about that just rubs me wrong.

I began to think of the actual people who might be involved in this kind of strategy. People I know. Businesses I support. Families working hard to provide a good life for their kids. My friends. My neighbors. I just couldn’t go there. There has to be a better way. Can’t we have some dialog, state our case, and enlist our friends support instead? What if we join together, neighbor with neighbor, to define law. Imagine the strength of that position!

Now, I know there is no way we can all agree on much these days, but when I look my neighbor in the eye, and recount the things we have gone through together, much of the antagonism of opposing views just melts away. Seriously, can you look a Sheriff in the eye and not remember those we’ve lost recently? I bet you still give them a nod and whispered thanks. How about a local rancher? Are you curious like me, if they are going to make it through the losses from drought and fire this year, and next year, and keep going, because we need them? I wonder if their historic heritage homesteads are safe...the bloodlines and all those acres. Or, what about your actual neighbor? What have you gone through with them? What common road have you walked? Divorce? Bankruptcy? Fire?

That’s what it is for me. Every time I drive home through my neighborhood, I remember the street clogged with emergency vehicles and people running toward danger as they dragged hoses, lugged fire extinguishers, and counted kids to make sure we were all okay. People I had not even met became dear to me on that terrifying day. That was two years ago, and it still makes my heart swell up and my eyes fill with tears. I would do anything for these people. Anything.

The day after our fire, the Fire Marshal arrived to do follow up and a walk through the property. He brought gifts from the community: some things for the kids, and store credit at a local hardware store to help us get started on our rebuild. I just about had to sit down as I looked at the handwritten note of encouragement and support. Who does this?!? Who are these people?

I’ll tell you. These are Belgrade people, who still live by old codes. They help when help is needed, forgive offenses, and cheer on kids who aren’t even theirs. These are my people, my neighbors. What unites us is stronger than any of our differences, and the underlying, under-girding bit of it that can be put into words is an old fashioned idea that still applies today: Love your neighbor. I think that’s why we love Belgrade so much, and why we choose to stay.

I don’t have to agree with everything to love a person. I don’t even have to know their name. I don’t have to like the new fence they put up, go to the same church, or vote the way they do. Political party, skin color, marital status, school choice, income bracket, or gender preference - NONE of it has to be the same in order for us to get along. And while I actually do agree with that local activist group trying to strengthen and clarify Montana law, I just can’t help move it forward if it means capitalizing on opposition. I want to live seeing and growing the ways that bring us together. I’m not sure if I can adequately identify our common bond, the specific components that define ‘neighbor’, but let’s just start with this: We are humans doing the best we can, walking side by side in this dusty, busy world.

These are my neighbors, and oh how I love them!
As it turns out, it’s not so hard to do after all.   

Adryann Baldwin  has been married to her supportive and entrepreneurial hubby for 28 years. They work hard together raising six kids to live by the credo ‘God first, family second, then everything else’. They make their home in beautiful Belgrade, MT.