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Pike County: It is the people

An old man was sitting on a park bench when a young man came and sat beside him.

“I’m new in town and I’d like to know what kind of town this is,” the young man said.

“Well, what kind of town did you come from?” the old man asked.

“I was so glad to get out of there,” the young man replied. “Those were the most unfriendly, uncaring people in the world. They never had a good word to say about anybody. It was a miserable place to live.”

The old man sadly shook his head. “I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll find it the same here.”

A few days later, another young man, joined the old man on the park bench.

“I just moved here and I was wondering what kind of town is this,” the young man said.

“Well, what kind of town did you come from?” the old man asked.

“Oh, it was a great place with wonderful, caring people who were always willing to lend a helping hand,” the young man said.

“The finest people in the world.”

“Well, I’m happy to tell you that you’ll find it the same here,” the old man said.

The town where we live is as each of us make it.

I was thinking about that story as we were planning the 2009 edition of the Profile, titled “It’s the People.”

Some years ago, the “Welcome to Troy” sign read: Fifteen thousand people and two or three old grouches welcome you to Troy.

Well, there are still two or three old grouches around the county but most others are kind, friendly folks who really care about each other.

So, when asked “What kind of place is this?” most people will say, as the second young man said,

“Pike County is a great place filled with wonderful, caring people who are always willing to lead a helping hand.”

I’ve been blessed to have a job that puts me out among the people of Pike County almost every day. One day

I might be scooping chicken litter with my hands, the next day shaking hands with a state senator and another day trying my hand a piecing a quilt.

But every day, it’s the people of Pike County who give my life greater meaning and purpose.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and know so many wonderful people and to hear their stories and share many of their joys and their sorrows.

There are times when we laugh together and times when we share a few tears.

Many times, I’ve headed home from an interview with a jar of fig preserves, a mess of turnip greens or a “favorite” book along with me.

“I don’t want you to go away empty handed,” someone will say.

But I never go away empty handed. I go away with wonderful memories and stories that I will treasure forever.

Along the way, I’ve drunk homemade wine, pulled corn, driven a six-row cotton picker, sung fasolas, attended high-brow events, met important and influential people, visited jail cells and often jumped in “way over my head.”

But through it all, it was always the people who mattered, always.

Once a dear, sweet lady handed me her tattered Bible.

“I can’t see to read no more,” she said. “Will you read to me? Just read what you will.”

I read I Corinthians Chapter 13.

She spoke the final verse with me: “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three but the greatest of these is ‘love.’”

“That’s all in the world that really matters, people and love,” she said.

“Always remember that. People and love.”

And, that is all that really matters. People and love.

If we really know people — if we laugh together and cry together, — then we learn to love one another.

The people of Pike County know and care about each other and out of the knowing and caring comes love — the greatest thing of all.

“Always remember that.”

Jaine Treadwell writes features for The Messenger. She can be reached at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com