One day on the farm, as a youngster I found myself helping my grandfather in the midst of another long hot summer of hay season. As my grandfather sat on the ground working on a sickle bar mower, I stared as intently as I could, amazed by the connections of steel, belts and sharp blades. “Jeff” he asked, “Go in and get me that anvil from the barn.” I jumped at the request, never minding that the heavy anvil weighed nearly as much as I did. I was glad to help.
In the barn, I bent over and grasped the anvil, and with all the strength that a ten year old boy could muster, I was able to lift it off the ground, just barely to my knees. The fifteen feet or so to my grandfather, seemed like a mile, but with no extra strength to spare, I dropped the anvil at my grandfather’s side, and unfortunately, on to the end of four of his fingers.
The sight of the blood spurting quickly and neatly from each of the ends of the four fingers of his right hand lingers in my minds eye, even to this day. In the instant that followed, my grandfather tearfully, but silently, looked up at me, though the pain of the act that I had just committed.
I find myself now, smack in the middle of middle age, my grandfather long since passed away, discovering the message of that day. Yes, I do spend much more time thinking about the consequences of my actions. But some thirty years later, the message is a deeper message for a world that I find seems quicker to judge, and hungrier for instant results.
On my daily drive back and forth to work, I‘m faced with needing to have my foot on the gas the moment the light turns green, so as to not be greeted by a symphony of car horns. At work, I’m chided if I’m not ready with a status report before I’m even asked, no matter that there is no new status to report. The nightly news reporter demands a guaranteed outcome in a war, seemingly before the battle has even begun. It’s as though the fast food lifestyle that we eagerly ushered in, in our youths, has resulted in the fast empty lifestyle of my midlife. The slow simmering qualities of determination, and dedication, everywhere replaced by today’s unsatisfying, empty calorie abode of, quick, just in time, and just good enough.
Now, as I soldier on toward old age, I can’t help but long for the pendulum to swing again, back in a familiar direction. A phone call to customer support, that rings a few extra times before someone knowledgeable, genuine, and caring answers, over a quick answer from someone far away, who doesn’t. Yes, the soup will take longer to receive, but the results will guarantee a satisfying and nutritious experience.
That day on the farm, my grandfathers default reaction, was to withhold quick judgment, for the greater satisfying, and longer term results, that a genuine demonstration of love and patience, can accomplish. A message not so easily understood in this day of short term thinking, but with long-term implications, for the survival of humankind on the planet.
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