Current weather conditions

Click for Dexter, Iowa Forecast

Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     Funerals can be strange places to have “ah ha” moments, but when you write for your supper you take them whenever they come. Growing up in the country I tend to think of things in the terms of communities. Just like Earlham and Dexter and Pitzer each have their own identifications of community, so to in the country. Many of them are surrounding churches. Out my way we have the Bear Creek community which identifies most everyone living in the area. South of Earlham there is the Early Chapel community which is halfway between the communities of Pitzer and Penn Center. It really is all relative once you get the hang of the geography of the territories.

     It has been a sad weekend in the Early Chapel community with the passing of one of its foundations, Russell Leeper. Russ was my kind of guy, always smiling, always friendly and had a passion for Allis-Chalmers equipment. He also was the only guy I knew who could make sideburns look so completely distinguished that you never once looked at his bald head, although I did tease him from time to time about growing them longer and combing them up and over his head.

     Did I mention Russ was friendly? Not friendly in an overhanded way, but a genuine friendliness that came in the form of a giant handshake and a pat on the back. It didn’t matter whether you knew Russ for two-minutes or twenty years, he was always glad to see you. That is a rare and unique quality in people that he cultivated to perfection.

     In my younger days I dated a girl from the Earlham area, and since she went to church at Early Chapel, as we church kids tend to do, I would attend services there on occasion. The Leepers, Russ and Shirley were two of the first people I met there. Of course they knew my grandparents, which has been something of a godsend over the years when it comes to meeting people a little out of my generation, but I was instantly welcomed not only into the church, but the community as well. I remember fondly an outdoor service that I was invited to at their farm out back by the pond. Such a pretty and serene place, and although I didn’t know everyone there, I was made to feel welcome the moment I arrived. Because, let me tell you if Russ didn’t welcome you with a hearty handshake, Shirley made sure to hug you until you felt at home.

     They say the mark of a remarkable life is the number of people who show up at your funeral. I in some ways believe this to be true, but I feel it stands more as a testament to how you treated people in your time here on earth. Tonight, standing in line at the funeral home, surrounded by people I didn’t know well at all, I understood the sense of community in that place. We were all there because Russ had welcomed us over the years, invited us to come sit down and laughed with us until we felt welcome. And as always, there was Shirley who made sure I got a hug or two just for good measure.

     Unfortunately, many times we wait until it is too late to let people know they have made an impression on our lives. Certainly that is the case here. I’m sure that for years to come, the chicken and noodles will still be as delicious as ever, and we will all fight for a good piece of pie in the basement of that small white country church. But it will never feel quite the same walking in, waiting for that handshake and gentle smile to welcome you, and perhaps that is where we who are left need to pick up what Russ started and carry on. Let his life be a lasting reminder to all of us, that in the end, the easiest thing to do is to make a friend right out of the gate, and to welcome everyone in regardless of who they are.

     See you next week…Remember, we’re all in this together.