Earlier in the day a bag of dried beans for soup had broken open and a significant portion of its contents tumbled across the counter and down the kitchen sink drain. At the time, I hoped that they went all the way down. They didn’t. Instead, the dried beans soaked up water and swelled, completely filling the drain and causing a fairly colossal mess.
It had been a long day and I was tired. After dinner that evening my wife had a meeting. Our young children were playing nearby in the living room while I faced the dinner cleanup and the revolting contents of the sink, burbling up occasional blobs of gunk. I was on the border of falling back upon an old staple for handling these types of less-than-desirable situations — frustration and anger. After all, this situation was truly unpleasant and I had every right, I felt, to be frustrated.
This was not fair. I did not deserve this. I should not have to reach my hand down in the nasty drain and then take everything apart under the sink. This was awful. I was about to start grumbling and scowling, but instead peered down into the murky sink and thought to myself, “You know what, most people in the history of mankind would have loved to have running water in their house. I should be grateful I even have a sink to work on. There are people who pray every day to have children and I have two miracles playing in the next room. There are people just miles away sleeping outside tonight with nothing to eat for dinner. Just what exactly was it I was supposed to be angry about again? What is it I deserve?”
I took a deep breath and calmly went to get my tools. I had been working silently for about a half hour, tearing apart the drain under the sink and fishing out handfuls of swollen, soggy beans, when my son came over. “Daddy what are you doing? Can I help?”
“Sure,” I said with a grateful smile. “You can help me get this cleaned up and put back together.”
My inquisitive boy had many questions about the plumbing and why the beans had swelled up. Seeing my son’s interest, my daughter came over. We talked about how the drain worked, those crazy swelling beans, and why they made mommy’s soup taste so delicious. We joked about how daddy gagged a little when he put his hand down the drain and, together, we got the mess cleaned up and the tools put away before bedtime.
What could have easily been me setting a poor example of complaining and frustration had instead turned into an actually enjoyable experience with my kids. My wife returned home near the end of the cleanup to the sounds of laughter from the kitchen.
“Mommy can you believe these crazy beans were filling up the drain? There were hundreds of beans in there. I mean hundreds,” my daughter said with a giggle.
With this in mind as we move into 2016, my plan is to try cherish every moment, every meal with my family, every odd odor, every challenge, every clogged toilet, every giggle, every nasty sink full of dishes, and every question from a curious child with a grateful heart. Everything I have is much more than I deserve and I have found there is little more powerful in addressing life’s troubles than a grateful heart.
Frustration and anger are cyclical — they just lead to more frustration and anger. Celebration, though, is also cyclical and it begins with the very simple (but not often easy) decision to employ a grateful heart, especially when we are most tempted to do the opposite.
The reason I bring this up is that agriculture will likely be facing some pretty hard times in 2016 (much tougher than a clogged sink) and this website will be delivering information that is not necessarily pleasant to read. In some cases, farms will be lost, budgets will be strained and lives will be permanently altered in the tough times ahead, but this is nothing new for agriculture.
Working with so many farmers through the years has helped teach me the power of a grateful heart, particularly during challenging situations. I have encountered many farmers who relentlessly celebrate what they have, even in the midst of some pretty rough patches. This perspective will not increase yields, improve production efficiency or cover the land payment; it will do nothing to calm the potentially tumultuous winds of 2016. But I know generations of farm families who have clearly demonstrated that a grateful heart can certainly help to weather the storm.