Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor are words many of us hear in church. Many of us aspire for these words to influence, if not fully guide, our lives. But, what do these words really look like when put into practice?
I crossed paths with Larry Prochazka about a week ago – finally. We both call Longmont home now. I knew Larry as one of the star athletes from the great Atwood sports teams of the early 70s. Joni knows Larry as a workplace consultant and coach.
We only had time for a five minute conversation. But, Larry told me a story I will long remember.
He was working on the family farm in the northwest part of Rawlins County – “That’s where I learned my values,” Larry said. He seldom went to Atwood in the summers. Probably less often than I went to Colby. His community was the farm families that lived nearby.
Just as harvest was coming into full swing, one of the Kopriva’s severely broke a collarbone. It was going to be impossible for him to harvest his wheat on his own.
News spread. All the farmers in the area left their own fields to help out the Kopriva’s.
Larry told us that as the neighbors cut Kopriva’s wheat, dark clouds began to build, climbing thousands of feet into the sky, on the western horizon. A major thunderstorm was imminent. As the farmers looked west, they knew it was only a matter of hours before their fields would be pelted with heavy rain – perhaps hail.
Anyone who knows a wheat farmer knows that when the crop is ripe, the farmer has a singular focus – get the grain out of the field.
The neighbors working in the Kopriva’s fields knew their own crops, their family income for that year, was at risk. Surely, in their gut, they wanted nothing more than to abandon their help and get back to their own fields. But they stayed until the job was done knowing their neighbor would do the same if the situation was reversed.
On the farms in Rawlins County, and in farm communities across the country and perhaps world, Love Thy Neighbor are not Sunday words. They are a way of life.
For all the faults, foibles and hypocrisies that exist within Plains people (as they exist in all people), when the chips were down, Larry’s neighbors were there to help one another.
I like to think of myself as a neighborly sort of guy. I loan tools. Shovel walks when neighbors are out of town. Toss the newspaper closer to the front door when I walk by. Joni is a far better neighbor than me.
But, we have never put our livelihood on the line to help a neighbor in need.
I will think of Larry’s story often. A standard to aspire to.