The Good Neighbor

The original Jim Schul is my dad (pictured above).  When I was growing up, he could do anything.  While this may seem like an exaggeration, it really isn’t.  He could fix anything and, still to this day, I’ve never known a stronger man.  What stands out to me is that this was no family secret – our entire small town knew this about him.  It seems that whenever a community member needed help, they came to him.  Heck, I even remember one of our neighbors, Helen, stepping out of her front door yelling “Jim, Jim, Jim, help!” as smoke blew out of her house.  Her first instinct was to call upon my dad when a fire blazed in her kitchen!  The image of my dad literally running to Helen’s rescue is fixated in my mind as a symbol of who he was.  He was the good neighbor, the great neighbor.

There is an old parable, passed from generation to generation, about a good neighbor.  This neighbor came across a man lying on the side of a dangerous road, in need of first aid.  Previously, two prominent figures passed by this man, ignoring him.  However, the good neighbor took the time and helped the man, administered first aid, and made sure he was taken care of.  I think the difference between the two prominent figures and the good neighbor was the question each asked as they saw the man in need.  The prominent figures asked this question: “What is going to happen to me if I help this man?”  The good neighbor flipped this question and asked: “What is going to happen to him if I don’t help him out?”  My dad asked this second question of himself more than he asked the first.

I’ve mulled over this old parable all year as I’ve considered running for school board.  Originally, I focused on the first question: “What is going to happen to me if I run for school board?”  After all, I have problems of my own.  Why am I asking for another thing to do?  Why do I want to inherit others’ problems?  Why do I want the scrutiny that goes along with being in the public’s eye?  However, earlier this year, I began to focus on the second question: “What is going to happen to our community if I don’t run for school board?”  I began to consider the impoverishment of ideas and optimism in our midst, the prevailing threats to our democratic institutions, the lack of attention to marginalized populations – especially those with special needs, and the low professional status of teachers.  My decision became clear to me.

My dad told me: “Always help out your neighbors.”  I am trying to heed his wisdom by running for school board.





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