A couple of weeks ago I was hurrying down a long hall towards a group of people. I wasn’t late, but I knew they were waiting for me so I was walking kind of fast, with the bad-knee wobble that’s the closest I get to a trot. As I got closer, I heard someone say, “Look at him. He walks just like an old farmer.”
When I reached the table, I said, “Well, I am an old farmer.”
Every Wednesday night, for about a decade now, I read for half an hour to the folks at our local assisted living center. We chat a little first, and then I start reading - unless the heckling gets too loud or the group finds something interesting to talk about. Over the course of about a year, we go through all four of my books and then we start over again.
It’s a lot of fun. I lead kind of a complicated life, so scheduling everything else around that one iron clad commitment is quite pleasant. And many times that half hour spent around people I’ve known most of my life is the highlight of the week.
We meet at a round table in the dining room and the group can see me coming down the hall. It takes me a minute or so to get there and occasionally they talk about me asthey wait. A couple people are pretty hard of hearing (which may be why they are willing to listen to me read to them), so sometimes the discussion gets loud enough for me to hear. Being told I walk like an old farmer isn’t the worst thing I’ve heard people say.
Here’s the thing about farming. I have a big problem with our government’s agricultural programs, and the dog-eat-dog system we seem to be perfecting for land ownership drives me crazy. Quite a few farmers don’t seem to care too much about their neighbors, or chemicals in food or how much dirt we’re putting in the Gulf of Mexico. Those are all real problems, difficult to fix and with long-term consequences that are almost impossible to overstate. Still, even given those weaknesses and shortcomings, at the end of the day a farmer is someone who raises food to feed a hungry world.
That ain’t bad.
I was a farmer for thirty years. When I was harvesting, I’d do the math in my head: with the last combine I owned, we could harvest enough wheat for 60,000 loaves of bread in an hour. Put that image in your head. Job satisfaction? Not a problem.
We live in a perplexing world. Many people have trouble getting a handle on what they do, what they contribute, whether what they do matters at all. That’s a pity. It can be hard to go out the door in the morning to a job you treasure, but when your job is just a paycheck, and possibly not much of a paycheck, going out the door can be much harder.
I’ve done things in my life. My resume looks a little crazy in it’s entirety and I’ve enjoyed about 80% of it. Still, the 30 years I spent as a farmer is the most important work I’ll ever do. So, to the unseen voice who said, “He walks just like an old farmer,” thank you very much.