The outpouring of community support across Manitoulin for those who have lost their homes to fire or are facing the life-altering impacts of a family member’s serious illness reminds us, yet again, of the immense spirit and humanity running through the veins of those who choose to live in rural communities.
Country folk are renown for their independent nature and a general unwillingness to have governments of all levels poking their proboscises into their business, but when it comes to having a true sense of community, rural residents waste no time in rallying around those in need.
References to barn raisings and quilting bees might seem to be echoes from a quaint distant past to those living in urban concrete canyons, but in agriculturally-based communities like those of Manitoulin Island, they are a living, breathing reality.
The call for ad hoc carpentry skills might not happen as often as they did in the past, but they still remain well within the living memory of those who still plow the land—and many still answer when called. A barn raising would not raise many eyebrows should the need arise among one of our neighbours.
Those who have suffered the immense psychological hit that comes from a devastating fire are swiftly comforted by a community that rallies around its own. Local quilt guilds prepare “fire quilts” for the dispossessed; donations flow in to bank accounts set up for those facing loss from accident or debilitating disease. Often coming both unsolicited and anonymously from friend and stranger alike.
There is something in the country air that attracts, or perhaps breeds, independent natures that also nourishes a sense of community that can easily overwhelm the uninitiated. That counterpoint might seem to be contradictory, but in reality stems from the same deep well that keeps a farmer working the land, even while enduring the kind of hard labour and hours that would induce most factory workers to rise up in rebellion.
Those of us who live in rural regions are the beneficiaries of the water that draws from that well and it is something that should never be taken for granted, for it is too easily dried up in these days of social media outrage and misinformation.
Let each of us continue to nurture the very best that the rural lifestyle has to offer. There is much the urban world, largely separated from the land as it is by a concrete and asphalt sea, could learn from rural communities. There was a time not so long ago when most of Canada’s population either lived in an agricultural community or had grown up in one. Those are roots that many would do well to rediscover.