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Pennsylvania neighborliness

A heartening story of people helping people is quietly unfolding in tornado-affected areas of western Pennsylvania. This past weekend hundreds of volunteers gathered in several communities to aid those whose homes and barns had been damaged or destroyed. They picked up the pieces of the old and began the building of the new. Friend helped friend, neighbor aided neighbor. But often it was stranger helping stranger. It was another example of the inaccuracy of the reputation of today's Americans as interested only in themselves. Nationwide, donations to charities grow every year, and many people give untold volunteer hours to aid the needy. In addition, many persons are quietly aiding others in a one-on-one effort that is unknown to the rest of their community.

Probably the most dramatic action of this past weekend was in the farming community of Atlantic, Pa., one-third of whose residents are Amish. Eighty-six homes were destroyed in the May 31 tornado. But late last week some 800 Amish -- a people long known for their willingness to help each other -- began arriving unannounced from surrounding areas, and even other states, to begin the process of rebuilding Atlantic.

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Crews of 20 or more raised barns and houses where hours before there had been only rubble; they aided Amish and non-Amish alike. ``I wasn't told to come,'' explained one volunteer. ``It's quite a mess. We wanted to help clean up.''

Residents of Atlantic and several other tornado-hit communities are receiving an outpouring of love and support, expressed in very practical terms. It is an affirmation of faith in the future.

And it is a lesson in brotherhood to us all.

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