The "politics" of rural America
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… right? The spirit of giving and the warmth of the holiday season can be noticed no matter where you are. Christmas music blares from the speakers of nearly every store, and there are activities abundant to attend in every community, large and small. There are also the annual family gatherings—filled with food, games, gifts, and fun (well for most people).
But for others, this is the sometimes the not so wonderful part of the season. Too often, family get-togethers can be ruined by disagreements and hurt feelings, especially when things such as politics are brought up. In rural America, however, our “political” views are pretty simple and straightforward, and I wanted to share them with y’all today, in hopes that we can all focus on the positivity of what we believe in and leave the other stuff behind. Let’s focus on all things wonderful that come with the Christmas season and the good about what we believe. And, if you need to get away from it all, I am sure you can head to your nearest gravel road and small country town, where a lovely midnight mass on Christmas Eve awaits you and some cattle will gladly listen to your carols. In the meantime, here is a taste of some of the "political" views of us folks out here in the middle of nowhere:
1.) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…. “ Colossians 3:23
Work hard. Not just when people are watching, or for praise or fame, but just work hard. Get up, enjoy your quiet time, drink your coffee, eat your bacon (because who doesn’t love bacon?!), and go to work. The cows need fed. You feed them not just because it makes you money (there are far greater and easier ways to get rich, believe me), but because it’s what you truly love to do. The hay needs cut. Not because you are going to become rich cutting hay (has anyone seen the price of machinery these days?), but because you know the snow will soon blow and your cows/pigs/llamas/donkeys/whatever animal you have needs foods for the winter. The wheat needs harvested, and that is truly the “bread” of the world. People need to eat. Every bushel of wheat that harvested yields about seventy 1-pound loaves of bread or, in another perspective, each bushel of barley harvested makes 300 bottles of beer—did I get your attention now?! (*thank a farmer!) But really, just work hard, and go at it with all you have. The early mornings checking heifers to make sure none need help calving, the late nights in the harvest field, and the cold days chopping ice for livestock to drink—none of that is done for fame, riches, or glory, but rather because it’s in your heart. It’s what you believe in.
2.) “…love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
It doesn’t matter if your neighbor is black, white, Asian, Hispanic, married, divorced, male, female, Christian, atheiast, Jew, a Cowboys fan, a Packers fan, or even a UND fan (sorry…. I did go to NDSU… #goBison!), you will respect them and care for them. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen neighbors spend hours in the harvest field getting out a neighbor who has cancer. Those stories still bring tears to my eyes. Or the hundreds of fundraisers that I have been in towns of less than 1000 people that have raised thousands of dollars to help with medical expenses for a neighbor baby in intensive care or the farmer who lost an arm in a machinery accident. Just recently my mom was telling me how a family friend that has been diagnosed with cancer was saying that she hasn’t paid for any gas or food expenses while receiving treatment because so many people have donated gift cards to cover her travel expenses to treatment (90 miles away….). In rural America, you can not and will not be selfish. You can’t turn your back on someone just because they may live/believe differently than you. You just know that it is your duty to love and care for your neighbor. And that’s what you do. It’s what you believe in.
3.) “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.” Micah 6:8
If anything can some up what I believe are the “political views” of rural America, this verse is it. As a little girl I always learned to not ask man how many acres he farmed or how many cows he had. Rarely have a met a man/woman of agriculture who wants to tell you how big their operation is, how many animals they run, or how many bushels they harvested this year. Nothing good ever comes from boasting or arrogance. You do what you do because you love it, not because you are trying to be better than someone else. So you have 10,000 more acres than me? That’s great!! Guess how many more people you can feed with all those acres? That’s A LOT more bread (and I am sure you can’t eat that alone…. See point #1). My grandpa had to learn English, grew up as a baby of the Great Depression, and worked hard every day to create a farm and ranch that his now great grandson will someday take over. Yet, I have never heard him say anything about himself or all he has “earned”. The people of small town USA, and of the dairy farms and wheat fields, simply just want to do what’s right, act out in mercy toward their fellow neighbor, and do it in humility. I believe that we have see an influx of farms and ranches on social media telling their story in recent years because they have realized they need to defend their practices, not to brag. So many people don’t know about where their food comes from, because the people producing their food have never been ones to bread or create a stir. There isn’t too nightly news stories about a quiet farm who wants to help his neighbors and not brag on himself. Instead, we have farmers who want to just do what’s right for their land, animals, and neighbors, and do it with love and person and without bragging or arrogance. It’s what they believe in.
These “views” have definitely shaped who I am, and I see these principles and values in everyone around me. If we all put some of these in to practice, I believe we can have more enlightening and loving conversations with our loved ones and with even strangers this Christmas. How about this season, let’s all try to embrace more kindness, love, and mercy. Let’s make our conversations positive and full of respect and love. Here’s to fewer arguments and more laughter. Here’s to a wonderful Christmas season for you and your family.