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IN THE SPIRIT: Lynn Hilden does more than put a match to candles in Adams, N.D., church

ADAMS, N.D. -- Several times in the Bible we're told, "Love your neighbor as yourself." In fact, Galatians 5:14 said this command sums up the entire law.

ADAMS, N.D. -- Several times in the Bible we're told, "Love your neighbor as yourself." In fact, Galatians 5:14 said this command sums up the entire law.

If you don't mind, I'd like to wrap those words around these song lyrics from "Cheers," the old television show:

"Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."

If this is happening anywhere on God's green Earth, it's in this small Walsh County hamlet where everybody knows Lynn Hilde's name and where he loves and is loved by his neighbors.

Every day after lunch in Adams Cafe, "I make my rounds uptown, at the bank, the post office and the Farmers Union," Lynn said. "They are happy to see me. Life is pretty good. I do get mad once in a while at the Minnesota Twins when they don't win. I bawl them out when they lose."

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Lynn, 66, has a developmental disability. Years ago, he moved off the farm and into Adams with his parents. After Lloyd and Helen Hilde died, their only son chose to stay in town instead of moving somewhere else -- someplace where nobody knew his name.

"He's an amazing guy and the light of my life," said Amanda Schultz, who with her husband, Steve Schultz, lives in Adams. "His view of the world is that he sees everything through eyes of love and enthusiasm."

"He comes in here, and he is so upbeat," added DeAnne Vigen of First United Bank. "He takes pictures throughout town and brings them in. He's amazed by snow and the way it is moved, and he'll say he was counting stars last night."

'Serving joyfully'

Lynn Hilde eats meals in the cafe and, before Amanda and Steve sold it earlier this year, Lynn asked if he could take out the trash whenever he came in.

"He loves to help people," Amanda said. "He'd say, 'I'm so glad I can do it for you.' If everyone felt so happy about taking out garbage, it would be quite a world, quite a better place. He's an amazingly wonderful person."

Seems all of Adams feels the same.

"He's sincere about the people who are his friends, and he cares deeply for them," said Sandy Drevecky, who works at Farmer's Union. "He wants their approval, and he treats them with the same respect."

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Lynn has been honored for lighting the candles for Sunday worship in his church, Adams Mountain Lutheran. "When he had lit the candles 100 times, we had a celebration, and he was presented with a plaque thanking him for his service to God and his neighbors," the Rev. Stacey Nalean-Carlson said. "He's a fine example of serving joyfully, and that's an inspiration to all of us. It's tremendous how the community cares for him, but we receive just as much from him. He brings a lot of life."

Lynn told me he goes to church every Sunday, "but I don't sing anymore because my voice changed."

He sometimes helps with the offering, and he's kept track of the times he's lit the candles. "It's 217," he said.

Make that 218.

"He lit the candles for my mother's funeral," said Carmen Suminski, superintendent of North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, Grand Forks. "My mother, Beatha Grove, was his teacher. He was home-taught by her. Oftentimes, his parents brought him to our farm home. He had his own desk that was part of the kitchen. My mother would be cooking, and she'd give him assignments."

Reading for Beatha, Sheila

One day after both Beatha and Lynn had moved to town, he told her he couldn't read.

"My mother knew he could read, so she started writing him a story every day," Carmen said. "She would take a picture out of a magazine, maybe of an animal, and she'd write a story about that picture. As my mother aged, Lynn came every day with his three-ring binder that he put this story into, and he read it to her. He has several binders of her stories. She was 94 in 2004 and still doing this with him."

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After his longtime teacher died, Lynn told Carmen, "I miss Beatha."

She may be gone, but Lynn's reading continues Wednesdays in the community library that's set up in the basement of the bank. Sheila Fry is librarian.

"This is one of Lynn's first stops of the day," Sheila said. "He tells me about his week. I pick out two books, and he will read them to me. Since last September, he's been coming every week and reading two books. I believe he's at 65 now."

Carmen recalls the time years ago when Beatha bought a new three-wheel bike and gave Lynn her old one.

"He rode it and rode it and rode it and wore it out, so the community decided he should have a new three-wheel bike. Farmer's Union put up a sign for donations to purchase a bike for Lynn. When they gave it to him, the place was packed."

Now, Lynn, who takes pride in his hometown, loves to ride his bicycle around town to look for aluminum cans that people have tossed aside.

"He keeps the town very clean," said Arlene Peterson, another bank employee."

A caring community

Lynn tells me he used to be a farmer. "I did the combining, and my dad did the grain hauling," he said, "Yes, I drove the combine. That's pretty darn good."

He named his cat Blue because "her eyes are blue," he said. His favorite television show is "The Lawrence Welk Show." "I tape it on my VCR. Then I can watch it again." Lynn said. "How about that?"

Lynn's 2007 summer highlight was when his "best friend, Amanda" took him to Fargo-Moorhead to the Hjemkomst Center, Scheels (to ride the Ferris wheel) and Lynn's favorite TV news station, KXJB, Channel 4.

"I got to meet Shawna Olson," he said, "and I got to see the whole newscast. We're going again this summer."

Janet Johansen, Edinburg, N.D., marvels at how much Adams cares about her cousin. "It's remarkable," Janet said. "That town is really wonderful to Lynn."

Carmen agrees. "It's phenomenal; it's rural America," she said. "It's North Dakota values with an exceptional value of each person. It demonstrates what a caring community Adams is."

And doesn't that just sum up the entire law of God?

Lynn's birthday is July 5. If there's chocolate cake, "it will be the best I've ever had," he said. And if there's a party, "you're all invited."

Reach Dunavan at (218) 773-9521 or naomiinthespirit@aol.com .

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