We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results. ~ A.J. Jacobs
While I don’t believe we should keep a legalistic tab of what we do for other people and ensuring that we get our dues back from them; I do believe it is good to be our brother’s-keeper, which actually means our world’s-keeper. I believe that all the good we do in this world will reap greater good. We don’t always see it, which is why I’m ok with using the phrase ‘pay it forward’.
For example, years before I was born my grand-father-in-law-to-be Ben L Reimer was helping Albert Friesen get out of traditional farming (which was no longer paying his bills) and get into the lucrative business of turkey farming. Unfortunately, there too, the turkeys gobbled up his money. Feeling partly responsible and partly altruistic Ben L helped Albert to clear his debts. He paid it forward.
Two generations later, the lives of our clans cross again. This time Flo Friesen, a daughter of Albert is the responsible altruistic elder that helps my wife and I with our transition to living overseas. For 18 years she faithfully prayed, visited us and encouraged us many times when we felt like giving up ‘the farm’. It may be several decades later and Ben L did not live to see it, but now the Friesens were helping the Reimers. Could we say, she paid it back?
How far can we take this idea of generational altruistic community? Well, I know that the Barkmans were of great encouragement to the first Steinbach generation of Kroekers, Fasts, Wiebes, Giesbrechts and Toews. They, in turn, supported the Barkmans when they lost their father. As Mennonites who are all part Barkman, part Friesen, part Reimer, part Wiebe, and part something else it is easy for us to realize that we are part of a big family that needs taking care of. Let’s keep fostering a generational altruistic community and extend the table to other non-Mennonite clans around us. After all we share 99.9% of our DNA and the most distant cousin possible, we each have on earth is our 70th cousin. Let’s pay it forwards and backwards.
This month at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) we hired a new Development Coordinator. When I (MHV Executive Director) found out Patrick Friesen was the grandson of Albert Friesen I marveled. Here is generational altruistic community again. Now I have the privilege of working side-by-side with the Friesens for our community’s common good. Patrick like his grandfather is a very caring person who cares for our heritage. Hopefully, you get to meet him at our ‘Farm to You’ event on October 2nd, a MHV fundraiser that is about sharing a meal in thanksgiving for our year and harvest season (see info below). By the way, I would not have known this story if Albert had not taken the time 20 years ago to tell me his experience of Ben L Reimer.