Monday, April 16, 2007

The Vehicle of Occupation

Though the long-time farmer of Bentley Farm, Henry, passed away three years ago, his impact on our lives is not quickly forgotten. We remember Henry as we are mindful of the new changes in the Bentley landscape. The roads through the woods have become more defined, the old alfalfa field has a brand new crop of grapevines, the old milkbarn has been thoroughly removed and even the stately maple and cherry trees that graced the side of our own house have been cleared. It is easy to let our hopes for the future of Bentley Farm become all dominating and important, but thinking of Henry has helped us to remember that some things are more important than land, crops, trees and buildings.

Namely, Henry cared a lot about people. While no one tended to the Bentley fields like Henry, all would agree that the spot of real tenderness in his heart was for us. Working the land was not, to Henry, an end in itself. Henry's life as a farmer was a vehicle for relationships.

All of us could recount numerous memories of the outworkings of his care. Henry never stooped to the demands of efficiency. Unhurried, he always took the time necessary to patiently teach us children to drive the staples into the fence post without bending them or to lever the rocks from the field with the help of a fulcrum. Never did ears exist that were so receptive to the chatter and questions of children. Never would one so readily cease their work to lean upon their hoe and cheerfully greet a passerby.

I have so many favorite mental pictures of Henry. Somehow all of them involve me talking and Henry listening as though I was the most eloquent of statesmen.

And so we think of Henry in these times, grateful to be recipients of his loving and gracious ways. We hope that we can take a lesson from Henry and find that our occupations and the land around us are only vehicles for building caring relationships.