What would it be like to step back a few decades? While in Massachusetts we stopped at a farm market that was mainly set up to sell the produce from the fruit trees the farmer raised as well as the honey from the bee hives he had, as well as some items from other neighboring farms.

What caught my interest was the “pick your own” apples sign. Situated at the top of a hill, one could see down along one slope of the hill an orchard of apple trees. Despite it being a windy day, the sun was shining and people would get a basket at the farmer’s market and head down the path to the orchard.

Inside the store I looked at the apples, knowing that our time away from home would be too long to carry them with us if we bought any, but yearning to do so just the same. There were large apples, especially the two varieties I was looking for – Cortland and Macintosh.

That sight makes me think about what Dad’s life was like growing up. While delivering newspapers, he would stop at a local farm at the end of his route and help milk their cows. For helping to milk the cows, he was given a container of milk to take home to his parents and siblings. Sometimes he was also invited to stay for supper.

His dad would help pick apples for the local orchard in his free time. In payment he’d have a bushel of apples to take back to his family.

While people may not have had much money, they still brought home needed food home by helping out their neighbors. We were told that the orchard we visited does the same. Various people will lend a hand when it’s time to pick the apples and receive a bag of apples in return for their help.

Would such “payments” work everywhere today or is it only in rural communities that such “in-kind” wages are considered worthwhile? Or are we just plain naive in comparison to the rest of the world?

Recently I saw a gentleman standing at a local intersection holding a sign that said, “Broke. Anything will help?” I watched as several drivers stopped at the red light and handed him money before driving on when the light changed. Others drove by with their windows up, likely thinking it was a scam? Was it? I don’t know. It might have been or it might not.

Those of us who live in rural America tend to want to help when we see a need. But in today’s world it’s hard to see if the need is true or just someone taking advantage of kind-hearted people?

It’s sad to think that we cannot take people at face value but instead worry whether we are being scammed.

I can remember someone once saying, “If someone steals my coat, then obviously they needed it more than I do.” In other words, if the person had to resort to stealing to get a coat then their situation must be worst and the need the coat to stay warm.

If Dad hadn’t been willing to take the risk to help the farmer milk his cows and instead worried about being taken advantage of, he would have had fresh milk to take home to the family, nor would he have made friends with the family; or the apple farmer trying to harvest his apples and needing help? If no one would help unless paid top dollar, would he have had to let some of his produce fall to the ground and not make it to market?

Decades ago it seemed people were willing to take risks to help strangers and neighbors alike. My grandmother used to tell me about the men who rode the trains – the hobos. They would often come to my grandparents’ back door begging for food. Grandma said she always made them sandwiches. Maybe it was because she lived through the Depression and knew what it was like to not have much.

It is in the rural areas where we still find that willingness to help strangers and friends alike. Makes me very glad that I was raised in rural Pa. and can continue to call it home.

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