My small rural town in the 1950s was a close community where it was understood that each life impacted the entire town. If there was an illness or injury, no one needed to ask for help. Assistance flowed into that family’s home.
There was an understood, unspoken responsibility each person maintained for the people of the town. If one had an alcohol addiction or was mentally unstable, everyone knew about it. Everyone cared about what happened. And, each family actively supervised their problem. What this one person did affected every other person.
Many many years after I had grown and left this town, things changed. A generation died off; my generation relocated where there were jobs. The dynamics shifted and new unknown people moved into the emptied houses. This was a different town.
There was a boy who was odd—that’s what my mother called him. When he was in school, no programs or aid had existed for this boy who was essentially barely able to button his shirt, let alone talk or read. When he was about ten, his parents kept him home and attended to his needs.
One day, this mentally disturbed and developmentally delayed boy (now grown to a man) went to the grade school. Thirty years had passed since he had been there, but this man still possessed great anger about those years in the back of a classroom where he was teased and belittled. Angry about the teacher who had been ‘unkind’, he took a double-barreled shotgun with him.
There was a confrontation, but everyone knew him and was able to prevent what could have been horrific. The teacher retired shortly after.
If this happened in my small hometown in the 1980s, why is it any surprise that crazy events happen now…most people live in one town and work in another…neighbors come and go…most towns have been merged with other towns into one big city glop…
Be watchful and speak up. See someone behaving strangely? Call the police. Don’t ignore the obvious signs of danger. Pay attention. Keep yourself and others safe. The responsibility is ours.