Home / News / Kristin Slater: It's amazing when a community cares for its people

Kristin Slater: It's amazing when a community cares for its people

Aug 17, 2023Aug 17, 2023

The car zips by on the road, a rush of air blowing under my coat. I release the breath I just realized I was holding. "These cars are really close."

My husband pokes his head out from under the truck. His legs still crossing the white line into the road. "You should go sit in the car."

"But how will people see you under the truck? If I’m not standing here, someone might run over your legs." We need him to keep those.

He seems to be mulling over this problem when a van comes to a stop on the other side of the road. A man in the driver's seat rolls down his window, "You need some help?"

"We think it's the fuel pump," I call back over. "It died here this morning." Fortunately, the truck died close to our house, and we had a second vehicle for me to go and pick my husband up in.

With absolutely no hesitation, the van pulls a U-turn, and the guy is crawling under the truck with my husband. After a few minutes, they both come back out. The guy from the van wipes his hands on the back of his shirt, "Do you have everything you need to change it?" He motions to a driveway just behind the truck, "We could push it in there and I could have it done in about 45 minutes."

My husband shakes his head, "We don't have the fuel pump yet, we were hoping just to get it off the side of the road before tonight so it doesn't get towed."

The guy nods, feeling in his pockets, "Aah, I left my phone at home. I’d call my buddy, he could get you home. Wait a minute." His mouth breaks into a smile, and he waves at a truck passing by. That truck grinds to a halt in the gravel on the side of the road about a hundred feet in front of us and two men get out, coming over. "Hey, we were just on our way to your house to see if you needed help with that chicken coop."

"Do you have your tow rope in the back?" The guy from the gray van asks.

"Sure do." One of the men runs back to his truck. "Where do you live?" The other one asks me.

I tell them the nearest corner and how many houses in, and they know our house; They even know our neighbor, who once threw a huge cookout for the entire neighborhood when he lost electric with half a cow in the freezer; and they know our turkey, who they’ve admired from the road. And they live straight through the woods on the next road.

Our turkey pen is in the front yard and we just met more of our neighbors.

Five minutes later everything's hooked up and I lead the way in the strangest parade I’ve ever been in. My little green Kia Soul in front, A pickup truck towing our suburban in the middle, and the gray minivan in the back. Down the dirt roads we go, slow and sticking to the middle.

When I was in my early 20s, I was walking my dog near my parent's house, fell and sprained my ankle pretty badly. The first person who happened by just happened to be a doctor. I remember at the time a friend of mine said, "Only in that neighborhood is the first person who comes past going to be a doctor."

Now, I live in a neighborhood where the first people who come past know how to swap out a fuel pump in 45 minutes on the side of the road and drive around with a tow rope in the back of the truck.

It's different. But both are important. Both times a neighbor saw someone in need and stopped to help, no questions asked, no compensation expected. Maybe some would see this as me being at the opposite of where I came from, I see it as more of my journey. Learning how similar people are, no matter where you are.

— Community Columnist Kristin Slater is an Allegan County resident. Contact her [email protected].