Thanksgiving is America's original and most traditional holiday. The one we just celebrated brought special blessings. I have renewed appreciation for living in a community where trust is the norm.
Achieving trust is difficult, especially in a nation as culturally, religiously and ethnically complex as ours. Most opinion leaders celebrate diversity in everything but thinking: They presume there is only one right and proper set of positions. But trust among cultural strangers is rare. Homogeneity isn't exciting but it fosters trust.
This past Thanksgiving week demonstrated benefits of living in our trusting community. I'll describe one event and ask what characteristics foster such trust. Here's the first case.
On the eve of Thanksgiving I picked up some timbers from a small sawmill about 40 miles west of Gallatin Gateway. We have a construction project on our ranch and we needed some seasoned Doug fir timbers.
I didn't know the mill owner but an old friend, Joe Wagner, hauled logs to him. Joe told me that in addition to conventional lumber such as 2 x 6s, the owner would also cut custom beams. I called in my order for 9 x 12s 18 feet long and spoke to the mill owner, Corey Gray. I've not yet met him.
I needed beams cut from standing dead seasoned Doug fir. Green wood wouldn't do for it shrinks and twists. Mine was an unusual order. It would be ready by Thanksgiving.
I arrived at the mill--but no one was there. I called Corey's cell phone but no answer. Bundles of boards and stacks of cut timbers were stacked around the saw carriage house. I hunted around and found my order, naturally the only 9" x 12"s 18 feet long in the yard. Beams this size are heavy requiring a front loader to load them. Was my trip wasted?
I was about ready to drive off when a middle-aged pick up and driver pulled in the yard. The driver said: "He must be gone", referring to Corey. Given my truck and trailer it was obvious I was there to pick up a load of something. "What you here for?" he asked. I pointed to my timbers. He didn't ask my name.
The man who pulled in said nothing but walked to a Fiat-Allis 945 loader tractor. He started it, drove to my timbers, picked them up and carried the timbers to my trailer and carefully sat them down. He concluded with this: "They'll know you got them when seeing them gone".
This account shows a collage of trust among people who don't know one another but share a culture and community. Here are some of the pieces in that collage. I trusted a mill owner I don't know to cut needed timbers from seasoned logs. He trusted me to accept these odd sized timbers and not leave them. The man who drove into the mill yard trusted me to identify my timbers and then pay for them.
I had a second trusting experience the day after Thanksgiving. Ramona and I were just leaving to join friends for dinner when I received a call from a neighbor who was away visiting out-of-state relatives. She asked me to please check her house.
Her cell phone is linked to her home alarm system. It had just signaled her of a fire threat in her home. Somehow the system alerted the Gallatin Gateway Fire Department. Amazing technology indeed!
Keeping her on the phone, I drove to her house to check on the possible fire. She told me a back door was unlocked. This is another demonstration of trust.
I entered her house, checked all rooms, and found no sign of a fire. That took less than ten minutes. When I came out there were three Gallatin Gateway fire trucks waiting in her drive. Volunteer fire fighters manned all trucks. In addition to trust, ours is a caring and competent community.
This Thanksgiving further sensitized me to the great blessing of living where people share a culture where trust is the norm. Let's be mindful of this and give thanks through the year.
Here is a question for next year and beyond: How can we foster our culture of trust? It is important to remember that shared values are keys to wholesome and caring communities. When these values are absent, places fall apart. Think about the task of integrating newcomers of any ethnicity or class into a community of trust.