Take the time to reach out to others


“Try to understand men. If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate, and almost always leads to love.” 

— John Steinbeck, journal entry, 1938

I have long thought that this world, often run by misdeeds and greed, could be a much better place if only there was an understanding of what breeds malcontent in its earliest germination process.

My brothers-in-law, one a sheriff and the other his deputy, served for many years in Huron County, Ohio. Twins, ornery souls who loved playing pranks by trading places in some of the silliest stories, had learned from early childhood that there is great levity in laughter. Even in the toughest, most dire circumstances, we touch our inner child through shared impish behavior.

Both twins knew that fear can come from seeing uniformed officers come to your door, especially for young children who stand innocent in all the behaviors that led to their arrival. Bob was the soft-touch, and in all domestic disputes, he searched for the children, entertained them with stuffed animals or whatever magic he could pull from his heart, while a second officer sorted out the adult disputes out of earshot.

Upon Bob’s death, one of those youngsters, now a grown woman, wrote the sweetest letter to commend him. All those years later, now living several states away, she took the time to share with us how much his kindness helped to shape that frightening night and, consequently, the days and months to come.

“He took what had clearly been the most frightening night of my life and erased a whole lot of the fear simply by caring about a scared little girl. He cared enough to carry me around, sing silly songs and give me a stuffed animal he seemed to pull from thin air,” she wrote.

Both of these good men are now gone. The rest of us try to honor their memory by attempting to follow their lead, and in most instances, I find myself offering a smile to an unhappy child, but feel like I fall far short in making a difference.

A little bit of grace can erase invisible walls that we tend to put up to protect ourselves. Reaching out a hand, lending an ear, and starting a conversation can break down those walls. Understanding one another’s path is the first step, and is a step worth taking.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.


  1. I am interested in a column that you wrote about the McKinley farm. Our daughter and her husband recently purchased the property a crossed the road from the McKinley home. It is our understanding that it was ALL part of the farm, before being parceled off and the allotment growing. In your article you spoke of a red barn that burned down. The kids own the white barn, and it clearly did not burn down, so I am curious about the barn, where was it? Our understanding is that the kids own what was at one time the “carriage house/or the “tenant house” I would love to hear more about your memories of the property, as I too have spent many a day in a hay mow feeling the heat coming off the roof! I am fortunate enough to still be able to go to my parents farm, and be with my parents! I am blessed!


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