Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Up and Ahead

The farmer has long days this time of year, which means the farmer’s wife also has long days this time of year. They are physically long, but they are also mentally long. The amount of rain isn’t right. The sun is too hot. The machines aren’t new. The plants aren’t behaving. The markets aren’t behaving. The public fusses and complains about the way agriculture is doing (or not doing) it’s job. The kids want more fun, more toys. Mama wants more quiet, and cleaner floors.  The hand that does the feeding gets bitten, instead of thanked.

I remember the boss I had at my first real job out of college said to me, “There is no glamor in this job. And no thank-you’s”.  I was speechless. Deep down inside, at 22 with my degree in hand, I wanted glamor. I wanted a thank you. I definitely wanted money and as much happiness it could buy me. Obviously I was too young to know that these were all the wrong ways to achieve a content life.
The thankless jobs are all around us. I can rattle off so many…educators, medical professions, military, law enforcement, politics, agriculture…now that I think about it, I don’t know if I can name many jobs that are glamorous and full of appreciation! This is the reality of the world we live in. Recent events in our country that are fueled by violence, ignorance, arrogance, and bad judgement threaten to leave us feeling hopeless.  The downward spiral of negativity takes us to the exact destination where it always ends up: discontentment.

I wonder, how can we change this? How can we break free from the negative forces that weigh heavy in our culture? Our simple part is gratitude.  Life has to show you through your thankless job, your dashed dream, your lack of money that there is more. Learning that lesson isn’t for the weak- it takes strength to rise out of those types of expectations. It takes strength to put your contentment in moments of gratitude. It takes experiences to give you perspective. And it takes gratitude to give you peace. Looking up and ahead instead of down and around.

I don’t know what the next year holds for me, for my family. With my Dad enduring a difficult diagnosis of Stage IV Melanoma throughout his body, I don’t know what each day of the future will look like. (Of course none of us really do, but we sure fool ourselves into planning and plotting every detail as best as we can, don’t we?) Because of the simple fact that if I don’t smile, I will cry, I have had to come up with practical ways to keep my tears from overtaking me.  Everyday, I write down a list of what I am grateful for. Throughout my day, I look and point out what makes me smile, who shows me love and grace, and I tell my kids, “Look! Isn’t that wonderful?” Say those things out loud, tell your friends and family how much something meant to you, look someone in the eye and say, “I really appreciate what you did.” Gratitude moves you from a selfish place to a giving place. It turns dark moments into hope, and it helps others do the same.