My husband, Scott, stood on the edge of a soggy cornfield on our farm in Lyon County.
He stood with the posture of a lot of farmers these days — hands shoved into denim pockets, shoulders drooped, eyes warily checking west toward a sky that, he prayed, wouldn’t darken with clouds.
My husband often tells me that he didn’t learn the spiritual art of surrender in a church. He learned it in a field. For him, there’s been no year where that lesson has been learned more profoundly than this one.
This year, farmers have faced historic delays in planting due to unrelenting rains. That’s on top of an already shaky set of circumstances: low prices, rising costs, trade disputes. It’s no wonder farmers feel battered. It’s no wonder that the phones at the farm-crisis hotline won’t stop ringing.
Some people wonder why farmers keep going, in a profession with so much risk and uncertainty.
Farmers keep going because farming is more than a job; it’s a way of life.
Farmers keep going because, like my husband, they are working the same fields that their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers worked.
Farmers keep going because they feel the call and duty to take care of all that God has asked them to steward.
Farmers keep going because, to them, dirt is more than dirt. It’s potential. It’s life.
Out here on the farm, we live where we work, and we work where we live, and you can scarcely tell the difference, because we carry all of this life and love and hardship, like dirt under our fingernails and in our hearts.
But even under the cloudiest skies, we have seen rays of sunshine. Those rays have come in the form of prayers. Those rays have come in the form of knowing glances in the grocery stores.
Those rays came into clearest focus recently — in that moment when my husband was standing at the edge of that soggy field.
Because that’s the moment when a stranger pulled onto the farm yard. The stranger wasn’t from around here. He was dressed like someone from the city, showing up in a shiny car — clean, not like the way a truck looks from driving the muddy, rutted country roads around here.
The stranger stepped out the car door and held in his hands the most unexpected surprise: a paper bag filled with cookies, along with a note.
“Cookies won’t make it better,” he told my husband. “But we wanted you to know we understand what you’re going through.”
Sure enough, this guy was from the city, and he had crossed state lines from South Dakota into Iowa. He was from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and he had been driving all day around the countryside with cookies and notes. He had no selfish motives, had nothing to gain.
He came only to deliver hope to farmers like my husband.
The note read: “We know the ag sector — this region’s number one industry — is struggling. We recognize your hard work and perseverance through one of the most difficult times the ag industry has ever seen . . . Although words and cookies can’t make this tough time any easier, our hope is that this ‘thank you’ will be a small ray of sunshine in a dreary year.”
In an instant, this stranger became our friend. Simply because he cared. Simply because he saw someone who was hurting. Simply because he understood the basic human need for community.
You might not be a farmer, but I’ll bet you know the gift of being seen, of being heard, of feeling like someone who doesn’t even know you truly cares. Or maybe you know what it’s like to leave your comfort zone, like that man left the city, to make sure someone who is struggling feels a little bit less alone. What a priceless gift!
We all need to know that we belong to each other — whether we are city folk, farm folk, whatever folk. No matter where people live, work, no matter what we believe. We all belong to each other.
And in a hurting world, that can make all the difference.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is a former Des Moines Register reporter and now is a best-selling author of several Christian books, including her latest, “It’s All Under Control.” She and her husband are raising crops, pigs, and two beautiful humans near Inwood. She may be reached at email@example.com.