That they carved homes and farms out of forests is pretty amazing.
Many did not do it alone. They settled in small communities where people often leaned on each other to get things done.
I feel privileged to have grown up in a small town and to have lived in a community or two where people still valued helping each other.
Finding people that are willing to reach out to others and help them is getting to be harder and harder in this world where "me and mine" and the stuff we accumulate has come to define the ultimate happiness.
I guess that I have been around so long that I can pretty well tell in a few minutes if someone is genuinely interested in cooperating in a way that might help themselves and perhaps enhance something that I am doing.
There is a whole world of businesses out there who believe that helping someone else be successful somehow threatens their own business. It is actually far from the truth. Businesses who cooperate and help each other often end up more successful because of it.
As I was publishing our new Emerald Isle Travel Guide, I reached out to several individuals and businesses. Some responded positivedly and a few just ignored me. It is hard to generalize but often businesses that go it alone are so focused on their success that they really do not care what they have to sacrifice to get there including customer satisfaction.
Far too many of those businesses measure success in how much money they make instead of how much general good that they can do. I was reminded of this by a recent article in NY Times about how corporations like Apple move profits outside the country so that they have to pay no taxes. Companies used to be proud of the good they and their employees could accomplish in a community. Now the bigger the horde of cash that a company can accumulate the better.
I actually witnessed Apple stomp on the rights of a small business. I am happy they prospered in spite of Apple's above the law attitude. I am pleased to relate that if you take your cash to the grave with you, there are still no reports of it being of any use.
When cleaning out my mother's house, I came across a letter from a railroad company. It was written to an uncle of mine in the fifties. He had become sick and because he had been such a good employee for so many years, the company wrote that they were going to continue to pay him for a year while he tried to get well. Times have changed and I suspect finding a business willing to do that would be nearly impossible.
Certainly Apple is not that company, a recent article about the company had the title, "Bad Apple? The company may just show us everything wrong with American business."
Now I do not like to pay taxes any more than any other person, but I do like to have good roads, schools, fire and emergency personnel and a few other things. There are a lot of tax dodges in this country but that is not the point of this post nor are tax dodging companies.
What matters to me is what we can do working together as opposed to striving alone as individuals.
We often come together as communities because as a group we can do more than we can do by ourselves. The sea wall in the picture is in Edenton, North Carolina. I am pretty certain that one individual did not pay for it. Likely the government or a group of individuals worked to get it built.
We happen to live in a small community with a Home Owners Association and we pay dues for that privilege. The dues let me enjoy some things that I could not afford to have on my own. We have a community swimming pool and a nice dredged channel out to the White Oak River. Of course it is impossible to please everyone in a community, so there are always challenges but I am willing to take the tradeoffs.
Because so many of us live far from family and the nature of most communities and companies has changed, we often seek out other ways to be part of a group that can provide support when we need it.
Church is a wonderful example. As I was making some calls recently as an elder of Cape Carteret Presbyterian Church, I got to hear from individuals who were very appreciative of the care and help from other church members. I also listened to someone who was happily working at another church member's home while that person is recovering from surgery. Fifty years ago most people lived close to an extended family and a family member would have probably been doing those chores. Today that is often impossible.
Yet there is a whole world of people out there who believe that they can afford to pay for everything that they need. They have been very successful in business and perhaps they do not feel that they need help from anyone. I am not going to applaud every success because I know that for the handful of businesses which have built their success on cooperation there are plenty who got to the top on the backs of others. I have never see anyone who was responsible for all of his or her own success.
Usually success has a whole crew of unnamed heroes who have often worked tirelessly and ended up with little fame or fortune. Only a few good companies take care of their employees beyond an inner circle.
Beyond those whose personal riches allow them to believe that they can go it alone are those of us who not only know we cannot make it on our own but who also derive a sense of accomplishment from helping others succeed along the way.
I have been in situations where I have had to lean on members of my community and even my family. I have taken great pleasure in returning the favor to others.
Reaching out and helping someone who needs a hand is part of what helped this country of ours become great. Perhaps not everyone who gets help will make it, but that is certainly no reason to give on the idea and make sure than no one gets any help.
If you reach the end point of the logic of a society built completely on I have mine and you have yours, it is not very pretty.