Fleeing do-gooders

I grew up in Rappahannock in the 1950s and early 1960s. My family did not have much money at all. In fact, we were poor to put it frankly. But we never lacked for food [“It’s official: Rappahannock County is a ‘food desert’,” Jan. 18]. We had big vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs for butchering, milk cows. Many other country folks lived the same way. Another thing, people like us regarded welfare as anathema, whether rightfully or wrongfully. Some of us might well have committed suicide before accepting it.

My family did not own a vehicle and none of us even drove. Fact of the matter was back then quite many people did not own cars. Many times members of my family, and myself once I got older, would walk to Sperryville from our home in Gid Brown Hollow (unless the weather was terrible) and think nothing of it. People looked out for one another. If someone needed a ride to somewhere like Culpeper there were relatives or neighbors who would provide it, free or for a few dollars for gas money.

And we had local grocery stores — three in Sperryville alone. But what happened was that by the 60s, people starting shopping at the supermarkets in Front Royal or Culpeper. Lower prices, more selection and gas was cheap then. Our local stores went into decline, and of course in some cases of family-owned stores closed when people died.

I doubt whether with our population a national chain would come here. And frankly neighboring towns with them are not that far away, and compared to my youth vehicle ownership is much more common. The problem is probably worse in large cities where supermarkets locate in outlying suburbs and inner-city residents are left with pricey convenience stores and often inadequate public transportation. Was true of Charlottesville where I lived before returning here.

I think of how it was back then. We looked out for one another. The philosophy was lend your neighbor a helping hand if he needed it, but not meddle in his affairs or try to run his life. No one liked a busybody. Nowadays when I hear some of our perhaps overenthusiastic do-gooders, I am reminded of Thoreau saying that if he heard that someone was coming to his home for the purpose of doing him good, he would flee for his life!

Patrick Alther

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