June 12, 2024

Rural Issues: Learn from your elders

One of the best jobs I ever had was at Scott County Nursing Center when I was a senior at Winchester High School. Through the co-op class, I went to school the first half of the day and worked in the office at the nursing center the second half.

Among my duties was delivering mail to the residents. It was such a pleasure to bring a smile to their faces as I brought news from relatives and cards from old friends.

One of the rules strictly enforced by then-administrator Inez Myers was that the residents always came first. That center was their home, and we were to treat them in such a manner.

If I was typing up physical therapist notes or filing documents — it was all done with paper in those days — and a resident came to the office, I was to stop what I was doing and give that person all my time and attention. That was the best rule.

There was never a college professor that held my attention like the residents and teachers at the nursing center were able to do.

Many people can serve as role models in a young person’s life: parents, teachers, older siblings, cousins, 4-H leaders, neighbors — the list goes on and on.

But there are people in our society whose vast knowledge and experiences should serve as role models for us all, those who lived through the history that helped shape our country.

The number of people alive today who were born 100 or more years ago is small, but there are plenty born in the ‘30s and ‘40s who lived during the Great Depression and World War II.

They may not have been adults when the stock market crashed in 1929, but their parents were. They grew up in the shadow of bank failures and the collapse of the money supply.

Only 11% of farms in the United States had electricity in 1932. By 1942, almost half of American farms had electricity.

It was not until 1950 that nearly all farms in the land of the free and the home of the brave had electricity.

Consider this: tractor power did not overtake horse power on farms in the United States until 1945. That was less than 80 years ago.

Books and documentaries are wonderful, but consider the lessons learned and the impact of having a conversation with someone who actually lived those experiences.

How inspiring it is to hear firsthand what it was like to live during a time when the economy had bottomed out, then to see it come back strong.

We need this younger generation to someday keep our rural communities alive. We need them to make decisions about taxes, health care, energy, the environment and wars.

We are running out of time for them to truly learn from those who came before. We would all be well-served if they did.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.