Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Filling the Gap—Day 14 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            In the past, neighborly concern and helpfulness touched nearly every family; however, that is not the norm in many situations.  In contrast, I can think of two places where this type of concern for others is the norm.  One is our church; the other is the farming community surrounding my small town. 
A different meal gathering at church

            Just tonight our church had its annual, free Thanksgiving dinner for church members, family, and friends.  "Friends" is used loosely, because you can be the friend of a friend of a friend or even of, yet, another friend and be welcomed for the meal.  Preparation began at 8 a.m. with some volunteers, and different people followed through with other tasks as the day progressed.  In the end, a mouth-watering turkey dinner with all the fixings served about 100 people.  All of the food was donated by members of the church, and an offering was collected as a Christmas gift for our missionaries.  No one complained about their tasks.  No one tried to be the "big boss" and control everything.  Everyone who helped found something that needed to be done and did it—and they sought advice from those around them if they were not sure what they should do.  This Thanksgiving dinner happened because of a spirit of servanthood, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, and putting others before themselves. 

            Over the years, I have seen this same type of neighborly generosity in my farming community.  Although hired hands are used by some farmers either on a regular basis or an as-needed basis, farmers often help each other in exchange for getting some of the same help for themselves.  At first glance, this might not seem to be the same thing.  One could argue that the "help" was provided for a price (free labor in return) rather than for the sake of being thoughtful.  Yet, that does not explain farmers pitching in and helping a farmer who has become acutely ill (such as having a heart attack) or helping a farming widow who lost her husband before the crops were harvested.  In this situation, there is no payback or financial compensation.  It is purely a compassionate heart at work.  I have even witnessed farmers delaying the harvest of their own crops, so, as a community, local farmers could work fast and furious together to rescue the family that was in a desperate situation.  Sometimes they did not even accept compensation for the fuel used to run their personal machinery.  It became a part of the gift to go along with the time donated.  Does this happen very often?  Not that I have seen.  Thankfully, it is not needed very often either.  Fortunately, when help is needed, the good-old-boy (or woman) farmer is there ready to generously volunteer. 

            Alone, no one can fill a gap, but together many can accomplish what was at one time impossible to get done, just like our church's Thanksgiving dinner.  No one person could have easily provided such a wonderful meal, but together our church community completed the task joyfully.  The same goes with harvesting an extra field when the owner is unable to contribute any effort.  An American farmer fills the gap with his farming community just because it is the "right" thing to do—and he (or she) knows others would do the same thing for him (her) if needed.

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