Which way will the wind blow tomorrow?
It is a cold wind, whether coming from the south or the north, chilling our bones as various weather fronts meet and clash overhead, with more snow in the forecast.
A cold wind is blowing through America right now as well, not just on our farm.
There is considerable turmoil as Americans adjust to the new reality of “pay as you go” rather than “borrow for what you desire”. Our parents were Great-Depression era children, so Dan and I heard plenty of stories convincing us never to reach beyond our means. My grandmother, who moved with her three young children 20 miles away from home in order to cook morning, noon and night in a large boarding house, was grateful for the work that allowed her to feed her family, even if it meant separation from their jobless, depressed and often intoxicated father for weeks at a time. She told stories of making sandwiches to feed hobos who knocked on the kitchen door, hoping for a hand out, and after sitting briefly on the back steps eating what she could offer from left over scraps, they would be on their way again, walking on down the muddy road, hoping somewhere farther along there may be another handout or perhaps a day’s work. Even in her time of trouble, my grandmother could find blessing in the fact she and her children had a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in (all in one room) and food to fill their stomachs. There were always people worse off and she wasn’t one of them.
My grandmother never lived comfortably, by her own choice, after that experience. She could never trust that tomorrow things would be as plentiful as today, so she rarely rested, never borrowed, always saved even the tiniest scrap of food, of cloth, of wood, as it could always prove useful someday. My father learned from those uncertain days of his childhood and never borrowed to buy a car or a piece of furniture or an appliance. It had to be cash, or it was simply not his to purchase, so he never coveted what he did not have money to buy outright.
So we, the next generation, were raised that way. Even so, borrowing began with loans for college, and then for the first car, and then for the first house.
But with grandma’s and dad’s stories fresh in our minds, we knew we couldn’t start that slippery slope of borrowing to take vacations or buy the latest and greatest stuff or build the bigger house. So we didn’t.
We live simply, drive our vehicles past 200,000 miles, continue to harvest and preserve from the garden, use appliances past the 25 year mark.
Now the chill wind has shifted again, and we wonder where it will blow us. Now, instead of worrying our Haflinger horses could be stolen from our farm, I worry I will wake to find neglected horses abandoned in one of our empty stalls, or our fields. Joblessness is rising quickly, families lose their health benefits, prospective retirees lose their annuities, and food bank lines are getting longer. What was taken for granted for decades is no longer a given. Everyone is having to reconsider what their basic needs are for survival day to day.
It isn’t stuff. It isn’t big houses. It isn’t brand new cars or the latest gadgets.
It’s being under the same roof as a family, striving together and loving each other. It is taking care of friends when they need help. It is reaching out to the stranger in our midst who has less than we have.
The wind is pointing us back to the values we had long forgotten as we got much too comfortable. It takes a storm to find that true contentment can rest only within our hearts.