Monday, funny Monday.
Or: Moving coffins on Labor Day.
In addition to my books and to a sometimes-thriving marketing consulting business, I’ve worked as a journalist for the last 9 years.
Sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, but always writing for periodical publications. Most recently, my publisher promoted me to co-editor of a weekly newspaper.
It’s a job I enjoy. I write – a lot. But the job also affords me the opportunity to meet interesting people and explore topics about which I might have no other opportunity to learn. (Seriously. How else on earth would a city-boy like me learn about crop yields?)
Since I’ve been writing for the newspaper here, I’ve pondered what a fish-out-of-water story might look like. Either via a television dramedy (I hate that word, but it fits), or a sitcom. It isn’t something I’d actually consider writing, probably, but who knows. At any rate, yet again a moment arrived – ironically on the very first day I was down here full time.
Like any good story, it starts with a stranger at the door…
“Excuse me,” says the man. “I was looking for…” he says, referring to my predecessor. I inform the stranger that he has retired. What can I do?
“Oh! Congratulations, I guess. Well, I was really just looking for a strong back.”
This is going to be interesting, I think to myself. The man is well-dressed, shirt and tie, looks respectable and respectful, so I offer, “What can I do for you?”
“I was just going to ask someone to help me move a coffin.”
In all fairness it’s not a question you expect to receive — well, ever — but doubly so on Labor Day morning. As if detecting my immediate hesitation, the gentleman chuckles.
“It’s empty,” he says.
He goes on to explain he owns the funeral home adjacent to the rear of our building. Since it is Labor Day, he’s the only one in the office and has just received a new shipment, which needs to be placed in the showroom.
I agree to help and in the process learned my first lesson of working in a small, tight-knit Louisiana community. Everyone is willing to step in at a moment’s notice for pretty much any and all requests that might come their way. Over the next few days, I began to wonder: why is the same thing not true in a city?
What is that x-factor, peculiar to communities larger than 30,000, that turns off the ‘help the neighbor’ gene? Are we just too busy with our own lives? Maybe it’s distrust.
In a small town, when you’re asked to move a coffin, one’s first reaction is one of trust.
“Hey, this guy’s asking me to move a coffin. I’d better go help him move a coffin,” you might say to yourself.Â Yet in a larger city, the immediate reaction one of fear or suspicion.
“Hey, this guy’s asking me to move a coffin. Maybe he wants to put me in it!”
So here’s my weekly challenge to you as you go about your daily lives. If you live in a city, take a moment each time you receive a request for aid, no matter how trivial or mundane, and consider if your response is coming from suspicion. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but I’m betting that, if you do, a lot of people will get helped.