Last week, my parents drove out here from Michigan to help us celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday—and spoil her rotten. It is always good to see them, especially as they’re both getting up in years, and I want my daughter to spend as much time with her grandma and grandpa as possible. They always enjoy their time here in Northern Colorado (who wouldn’t?), and there are specific activities that they have developed into traditions for their visits. We always have cinnamon French toast at Silver Grill, see the Clydesdales at Budweiser, walk the dog around City Park, make a pot roast, mom cleans the windows, and dusts everything in sight, and dad takes long naps in the backyard hammock. And we always make a point to visit Harvest Farm.
Every day at Harvest Farm begins with a time of fellowship in our dining hall. Staff members and participants gather together for hot coffee, announcements, prayer requests, a song or two, and a brief devotion at the beginning of the day so we can start the morning with some positive momentum as a community united in purpose. At least that’s the goal. It depends on what I bring to it, what we bring to it and how we see it.
I have been working at Harvest Farm for almost 12 years now. This is still hard for me to believe, for numerous reasons. I’ve attended these morning meetings the entire time, almost every day for well over a decade. I hate to admit it, but after a while it is easy to lose appreciation for these shared times. It becomes just a thing we do. Like many of us, I simply get complacent and accustomed to it all.
And then my parents came. We parked the cars down at the office and then the three of us walked the quarter mile up to the dining hall. The morning was beautiful and mild, and the jersey cows licked my mom’s elbow when she walked up to pet old Annie behind her ear. A few program participants biked past us and yelled, “Morning, Rhoda!” as they headed up. Dad commented on how nice the barns and calves looked.
When we reached the dining hall and walked in the door, we were immediately greeted by a few of my colleagues who have met my folks before—Sterner, Seth, Kelly, Bender—and my parents beamed. The kitchen crew was cleaning up after breakfast, wiping down the counters and mopping the floor. A few participants, complete strangers to my parents, came up to us, introduced themselves and welcomed my parents to the farm. One of them offered my mom some coffee.
We had some announcements to make, fielded some prayer requests and sang a song together. A colleague gave a brilliant talk. Right in the middle of it, I realized how unique it is that we get to start our day this way together. I began to look at this time not through my own tired eyes but through the eyes of my parents. They aren’t here every day like I am, and they are new to all the magnificent craziness we call Harvest Farm. I looked around the room and was immediately reminded of how blessed we all are to have this farm work to do. I think that’s called gratitude—not taking our blessings lightly and giving thanks for what we have and even for what we don’t have.
As a manager, I get caught up in looking for what’s wrong with this place, what needs fixing and what looks shabby. I actually seek out the flaws. Too often, my eyes focus on the weeds, not the grass. Too often I see the car that won’t run anymore, not the other 14 that run smoothly. And too often I see the man who relapsed, not the one who is thriving. I think many of us are guilty of this myopia, sometimes simply because we just get used to it. But this is why we need to refresh our vision from time to time, to try and see through the eyes of another and snap us out of our complacency. And this is not limited to Harvest Farm or a rehabilitation setting. How are we seeing our spouses, children, homes, or ourselves? How often do we simply surrender and let boredom win? It is absolutely unbelievable how easy it is to become lazy in our thinking and in our habits. Way too easy, and I am guilty as charged.
After devotions, we all dispersed and everyone headed to their respective work therapy assignments. My parents mingled a bit and then had to say hello to Bender’s animals—the calves, Vinny the donkey, the new pup Barney—and we headed back to the cars. As my parents always have, they kept asking questions, and I knew all the answers. How many guys do you have here? (72) You still have bees? (Yep) How’s Newman doing? (Insane) Is it always so windy up here? (Yep) And I am not bored by my answers. Thank God, I’m not bored—I am proud. As my dad stepped into his car, he took one last look around and said, “You’ve got an awesome place here, Junior.”
And I agree with him.