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by Mike Masterson | April 25, 2021 at 8:54 a.m.

"There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others."--Mandy Hale

Imagine a family of next-door neighbors that would make the Brady Brunch, the Partridge Family and the Cleavers collectively seem less than idyllic.

Visualize four "yes sir, yes ma'am" children, all eager to help others in any way, children who enjoy offering random gifts and even belting out harmonious carols at your front door during Christmas.

In today's increasingly me-first, know-it-all, name-calling, easily offended society where new arrivals to your neighborhood could be a tribe of cousin Eddies from "Christmas Vacation," it feels as if the Baumann family was sent from "Ideal Family World" to spread peace and friendship across our neighborhood.

I don't know about you, valued readers, but in today's once-United States of America, I feel the Baumanns' selfless approach to sharing is deserving of mention as a shining example of the way we all could and should live together.

I'll stop short of calling the family a throwback to the way many neighbors were 50 years ago. But it's much closer than many realize.

Instead, they clearly are a testament to answered prayers whenever a "for sale" sign is planted in the front yard of the house next door. Like a box of chocolates, you never know who or what you're gonna get.

Terry, 50, and Kim, 42, and their children Hannah, 15, Lydia, 13, Josiah, 11, and Isaiah, 8, moved in more than a year ago and have set an example of how we should treat each other (and the joys every child should experience) as they grow. And that clearly is a testament to Terry and Kim as involved parents.

I'll explain this family in closer detail.

One night a while back when three days of heavy rain forced some water into our basement, we asked the Baumanns if they had a shop vac we might borrow.

The family instead showed up in force with pleasant attitudes and brooms to sweep all those seepings back outside. And they actually seemed to have fun helping, rather than resenting the intrusion into their evening.

When Jeanetta was gardening last summer, both boys saw her--spade in hand--and came to ask if they could help, explaining that they were there because "helping each other is what neighbors do."

We watch the boys in their backyard doing what boys decades ago enjoyed, before the era of cell phones and video games. One afternoon, they scoured their backyard with a metal detector, repeatedly marveling over every rusty nail and coin uncovered.

Another day we watched them climbing a tree together and perching on a limb as both laughed out loud.

The family finds pleasure in tending to the vegetable garden they created. And it's not unusual to see the boys chasing each other, laughing, in a game they've concocted.

When the Baumanns chose to lawfully raise six Rhode Island Reds in their fenced yard, Terry stopped by to ask not only us, but all the neighbors, if they objected. Since there was no 4:30 a.m. cock-a-doodle-doo rooster involved, everyone said fine.

So Terry built a handsome wooden and wire coop and attached it to a fenced run the six feathered ladies now enjoy.

Today, these once-tiny yellow peepers are now robust hens who are fun to watch over the chain-link fence as they flap and sprint back and forth up and down their run.

I even slip them a handful of bird seed now and then and have learned to cluck with the best of cluckers, which has made me one of their favorites.

Every so often, the doorbell rings and one of the children will hand us a bag of freshly laid brown eggs.

Terry, who works in the auto department at Harrison's Walmart, and Kim, who when not homeschooling her kids works at the Boone County Veterinary Clinic office, obviously grasp what's necessary to be loving and effective parents.

Naturally caring children who are always waving hellos certainly don't happen by accident. The impressive capacity Terry and Kim display for affection and loving guidance is evident in the four they brought into the world and continue nurturing toward adulthood.

Terry, a talented handyman and carpenter, is always ready, even eager, to do anything he can to help if we have a problem. When we enlarged our back deck in August, he cheerfully loaned his circular saw when one was needed and asked if there was anything else he could do.

Now, Jeanetta and I realize life is by no means a one-way street when it comes to relationships. So we try to keep up with the reciprocity. But despite our efforts, we also realize it's all but impossible to rival the volume of neighborly kindness and sincere sense of caring shown by this family.

In the words of their boys, helping each other is "just what neighbors do."

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]


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