“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” — Hubert H. Humphrey: US Senator for MN, VP to Lyndon Johnson
I’ve always liked this quote from Mr. Humphrey. Growing up in Minne-snow-ta, I heard his name often in my early years and after his death his name appeared on buildings and an airport terminal. He was part of the state’s political claims to fame as US Senator, US Vice President and even US Presidential candidate with roots in the DFL- Minnesota’s affiliate of the Democrats nationally. But over the years, something about him always seemed very approachable and human.
Even with his political focus on an active government, his roots were in small town South Dakota working as a pharmacist to help his father’s business. The two of them were rather entrepreneurial and creatively managed to survive the difficult 1930’s. Eventually he followed his real interest in teaching college students and found his way into local and state politics. Even when he became well known in politics, Humphrey didn’t become a millionaire unlike many prominent politicians.
I suppose part of him still had a certain small-town sensibility and small business attitude toward neighbors, customers, and the power of relationships that bind a community together. He didn’t see the helping hand of a neighbor as competition to the hand of government. Instead, help begins with families, neighbors, churches, schools, and community groups.
Living out this quote we can ask, “Who is my neighbor?” When you cross paths with someone in need this week and pass by with practiced distraction, you may tell yourself it’s someone else’s problem. That’s a good place to start. They may have had help along the way from somewhere else. But this is today.
To that person, nothing can replace your helping hand.