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The virtues of being a good neighbor wherever we go

This pandemic has disrupted our world and lives in so many ways — some more serious than others. It certainly has changed daily lives at home. Who would have ever thought we would have faced a flour and yeast shortage, yet have so many options of baked goods from friends, family and neighbors?

It has certainly changed how I spend my leisure time, and I must say, my yard and flowers may have never looked better because of it. I was working in my front yard just this past weekend when I heard a car roar by. A car going that fast is an anomaly in our neighborhood, and I certainly didn’t recognize the vehicle or the occupants. Subsequently, others went by at legal speed limits, give or take, honking and waving as they passed. Unlike the unfamiliar driver tearing through our otherwise quiet neighborhood, they were neighbors.

That got me thinking — I told you I had a lot more leisure time at home these days. I think those who live in our neighborhood travel through it differently than others who just use our streets as a shortcut from point A to point B. (The exception is “Leadfoot Lola,” who pretty much guns it wherever she goes. I have noticed she goes faster leaving her house than coming back. I’ve known her husband for over two decades, and I fully understand.)

The residents see this quiet street as part of their neighborhood. It’s not just a passageway, a quick cut-through from one busy street to another. It’s a street that young Quinn and Owen live on and might be out throwing a Frisbee or riding a bike. But examining my own behavior, I realize I’m guilty as charged. I drive through our neighborhood quite differently than when I’m across town.

As we’ve faced the many challenges of this health emergency, I am so proud of our staff for how we have responded to the needs. We opened our COVID-19 fund way back on March 16, and announced the first grants from it on April 3. I think my colleagues, with whom I have the privilege of working every day, see this as so much more than a job. This is their neighborhood, their community, their Ozarks. They take ownership and pride because they care deeply about our region. It’s more than a program or line of business, it’s helping neighbors.

As we are licking the wounds of the very divisive masking ordinance in Springfield and other Ozarks communities, I wish we could see such issues in a similar light. If we saw that person who thinks differently not as a foe, but as a neighbor with whom we share a community, would we treat them differently?

Thornton Wilder described his classic play, “Our Town,” as “an attempt to find value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.” That’s what neighbors do. We’re all in this pandemic thing together. The coronavirus is our foe, not each other. Bake more, argue less. Slow down and enjoy the summer lawns and flowers. Wash your hands, physically distance and wear a mask when appropriate. This is our town — our region — full of our neighbors. Let’s do what good neighbors do and watch out for each other.

Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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