My Dad is generally a quiet person. He goes about doing what needs to be done without much fanfare. As his son, he never handed me a written seven point creed. Writing long letters, or even short ones, is not something a Midwestern farmer typically does.
What my Dad did do is live his life as an example. Through this, there are several principles I have learned and have tried to apply in my life.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Family farming is not an easy job. Through the seasons, there is always something to do, and it is not pristine work. There is a lot of dust, dirt, mud, and more to work through. From early daylight hours to dusk, the pace is constant. At the end of the day, a welcomed shower comes, and you can watch the dirt circle down the drain.
There is no real opportunity for procrastination in farming. You have to get in there and do what needs to be done when you can get it done. Some of the jobs entail getting your hands dirty, and the work needs to be done without hesitation.
Plant the seeds, no matter what.
Taking risks is the name of the game in farming, although it is not viewed that way. There are so many uncontrollable elements in farming that you cannot really think about them at all. You just have to do it. Yes, farming may have been the inspiration behind Nike’s campaign slogan but with more depth.
You cannot worry about the results in farming. You place your bets in what you will plant, take care of the land, pray the rain will come and the bad weather will stay away, and harvest what you can. It is a faith business, but one which requires putting your faith into action.
Take a day off, preferably Sunday.
Even with the hard work, a needed rest is taken. Sundays are not a day to sleep in, but a time to worship God and pray for continued strength, guidance, and a little rain now and then. The afternoons usually drifted into a deserved nap, refreshing the body for the week ahead. Combining church and rest was the formula for individual renewal.
Be kind to your parents and even kinder to your spouse.
Every Sunday after church, we visited my grandparents. We did see them during the week sometimes, but almost without fail we saw them Sunday mornings for a “visit.” We lived in the same area, so it was easy to do this. Today, many families are spread across various states. What my Dad did though was set a standard of respect for his parents and a standard of caring for them. As they grew older and less strong, Dad was always there for them.
In a similar fashion, Dad was always there for Mom. Their love was clear. Almost every departure – after any meal, for example – started with a hug or kiss. Love was shown many more times than anger. During my time growing up, I probably could count on one hand how many times they got into any real intense arguments. They were partners in life, and it showed.
Stand tall in adversity.
There were not many times when Dad had to stand tall when dealing with other people, but there were a few. Whether it was with the church congregation when a new building was needed or when it came time to decide what should happen to my grandparents next, Dad was there to fight the good fight, to try to do what was right. There was a steeliness to his resolve when it came to family or God issues, and the farmer transformed into a leader with a clear sense of direction.
Live simply and within your means.
Being frugal is a lifestyle, and one frequently found on many family farms, including ours. Maybe it was because it was more of an imperative than an option, but always spending wisely and infrequently was the constant approach. He probably learned it from his parents, as they grew up during the Great Depression. I remember my Grandma keeping the bags which noodles came in, because those bags could be re-used in storing other items. With our current economic pressures, abiding by this approach for the past decade or so may have prevented some of the predicaments we are in now. Simple lives do produce fruitful ones.
These are the core principles I learned from my Dad. The important point may be the fact they were not written; they were acted out, put into daily practice by him.
Living your life as an example is probably the best lesson I could have ever learned.
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What I Learned from My Dad
What a beautiful message of remembrance of your father and where you came from Jon. What I love even more is the reality of it all. Although I didn’t grow up on a farm, it reminds me more of the kind of life I lived….one filled with hard work…not pie in the sky.
Today in #spiritchat we discussed energy balance. There are so many things in life right now that remind me of how much I’m out of balance energetically; especially with just finished up spring quarter and finals. As I recently shared with you on FB, every fiber of my being is exhausted and in need of some rest. And yet as I read your words here in your post, I totally resonate with having to do what needs to be done!
‘There is no real opportunity for procrastination in farming. You have to get in there and do what needs to be done when you can get it done. Some of the jobs entail getting your hands dirty, and the work needs to be done without hesitation.’
I may not be farming, yet the metaphorical principles are the same. I have to do what needs to be done in the time frames set for me in order to get from ‘here’ to ‘there’. Procrastination in studies will not lead me to success. It demanded daily diligence in spite of being stretched to the limits and fatigue.
Today, I’m grateful for my first day off since April that I don’t have to work at my job or study for exams. It’s a welcome relief! : )
This post is filled with so many messages I resonate with, yet I will just touch on one more you mentioned. Living a life of simplicity.
I’ve tried to live my life as simply as possible since my husband died, and yet I still wish it was even more simple! Cost of living proves to be a growing challenge in my area. ( rent increased by $100/month this year alone!)
We need to practice patience while waiting for wisdom and new doors to open that allows us to practice more simplicity, and also coupled with due diligence to keep going in the present; to continue to do what needs to be done. And rest when we can.
Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the past and allowing us to share the memory of your father with you today on Father’s Day.
May your day be filled with extra love today Jon.
Thank you, Samantha. Your thought and thoughtfulness mean a lot. Jon
Beautiful post, Jon. This took me back to my own childhood in the Midwest. Not the farming part, though 🙂 It was a simpler time. We spent every Sunday with my grandmother. Things were reused, not tossed. Sundays were days of rest and family. People took care of one another. Thanks for the beautiful reminder of another time. I am endeavoring to pull some of those threads through my life and regain some simplicity. Your dad and mom gave you a great start via their way of living and focus on what matters.
Thank you, Wendy. Great memories stir moments of what matters, and it is our challenge to determine ways to preserve the right ones to pull forward. Appreciate your insights. I am grateful for the upbringing I had, too.
Thank you for sharing this Jon. In typical Midwestern earnestness and authenticity, I can see how your dad’s influence has shaped you. Happy Father’s Day!
I love “Be kind to your parents and even kinder to your spouse.” We once had a really wise man join our LifeGroup for an evening and he mentioned that he could teach his children the vast majority of what was valuable in life by loving their mother really well. I thought he was right on the money, and this reminded me of that.
Awesome observations Farmer’s Son. You’re Dad’s principles probably make-up a great foundational structure for happiness in life, and they’re missing from so much of how we live now. These lessons ring true to me due to my exposure to my grandparent’s rural IL work ethic and agricultural backdrop. I remember the bags (twice used teabags) too.
I think about the frugality and caution of that depression era mindset allot lately. I now hear my Grandmother whispering in my ear from beyond “don’t waste energy” every time my daughter lingers in front of the fridge with the door open. My Grandparents purchased (received?) a dishwashing machine late in life for the farmhouse and she would only use for Sunday dinners, or holidays. It was wheeled out of the closet into the kitchen like fine china. She felt using it on a “regular day” was somehow “excessive.”
As my daughter is heading towards kindergarten, I find myself thinking about living my life as an example all of the time too. Hard to do sometimes, but a noble goal nonetheless.