Hey! I'm Working Here!

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During my years in Charlotte, I worked in a young, technology-based firm. The owner and his eager, go-get-’em employees would often stay working into the evening hours. I, on the other hand, being the receptionist/administrative assistant, liked knowing that when five o’clock rolled around, I could head home. On one particular afternoon, I entered the elevator, anxious to get down to the parking lot so I could point my car toward home. The doors were closing when the boss jumped in and exclaimed, “Don’t you love this job? I bet you hate to leave at the end of the day.” I boldly denied his supposition by saying, “No, actually, I love going home.” He didn’t fire me.

The farm has its own schedule (although I use the term very loosely). The alarm goes off while it’s still dark outside. We roll out of bed and pull on the same dirty work clothes we took off just a few hours before. After a hug and a kiss, we go our separate ways to do our personal morning routines.

Weldon sits at the kitchen table having a cold, refreshing glass of orange juice and a piece of toast slathered in ooey-gooey homemade jam. He scoops it out by the teaspoonful, making sure each bite has sufficient sweetness. He gives yesterday’s newspaper a final survey and checks his computer for the day’s weather forecast.

I brew a cup of coffee and head to the living room, snuggling the warm mug close to my heart. This is my God-and-me time. It includes reading something from the Bible, pondering the day’s message from a devotional, and maybe jotting a few notes in my journal. I have started my days like this for many years, and it helps me prepare my head and heart for whatever the day may hold.

When it’s time to get the morning chores started, Weldon heads out to give the heifers their silage, water the livestock, and get the cows into the holding pen in preparation for milking. I follow a few minutes later to feed the cats, which is no small job: there are plenty of cats and they all need backs petted, ears scratched, and tails pulled. If there are calves that need to be bottle-fed, that chore is next on the “schedule.” It won’t be long before we get to the actual milking of cows.

This routine is repeated again in about twelve hours, but then it’s called evening chores. After a delicious and nutritious supper, I wash the dishes, put up my feet and relax, or do whatever I feel like doing. No, wait. I’m sorry. That was in my previous life. In this life, we have a delicious and nutritious supper, I wash the dishes, put on my milk duds, and head out to chores.

The evening tasks differ slightly from the morning’s, but they still revolve around cows and cats and also include getting everything settled down for the night. I remain focused on each individual duty and like to see them done precisely, neatly, and in order. I’m not joking.

Friends, neighbors, and other farmers know that if they need to see Weldon, for whatever reason, morning or evening, they can find him down around the barn. That’s good for them, but an aggravation for me, because I don’t have “Visitors” penciled in on my chore-time schedule.

What’s this I see? A pickup. A man and some kids getting out. Weldon stops to talk to the Salvadorean guy whom I have seen on numerous occasions, always at chore time.

“Hola! You have corn?”

Weldon returns the greeting, speaking loudly, slowly, and using broken English. “Yes, corn in fields.” He waves his arm widely toward the field across the road. “You bring sacks? Bags?”

No, of course he didn’t, so Weldon walks to the abandoned well-house and retrieves a few old sacks. (P.S. Nothing is ever thrown away on the farm. You never know when you might need that old, broken, useless piece of whatever.)

“Here. Get corn. I milk cows now.”

I’m thinking, “Good! That didn’t take too long. Could we please get to the milk parlor now and get these cows milked? We have a schedule to keep, you know.”

Notice, I only thought the above statements. There have been times, however, when I have said similar, petty remarks right out loud. I can’t seem to shake the habit of wanting to get my job done so I can get home. Weldon, however, has the right attitude. He knows that people are important, whereas I tend to see them as interruptions. Ouch!

When I first came to the farm, Weldon told me that he hadn’t had a vacation in seven years. I didn’t know how to handle that information, especially after seeing how many hours he worked every day. Every day. Sundays included. How could he go seven years without a vacation?

The light finally dawned on me: People are his escape, his diversion, even if for only a few minutes. He listens to them. He helps them. He teaches them. He enjoys them!

Me? I’m standing back with steam coming out of my ears. “Hey! Can’t you see we’re working here? We need to get these cows milked so I can get back to the house.” Not letting a clock rule my life is one of the most difficult adjustments I have had to make on the dairy farm (along with all the other most difficult adjustments I have already whined about or will voice later).

It took me a long time to adjust my thinking. There is really no reason to get all huffy about an interruption, be it human, animal, or mechanical. Truly, there is no great thing waiting for me in the house. We will get the chores done, and we will get back to the house - sooner or later.

I may not be a people person, but people are important. What does it cost to look someone in the eye, greet them with sincerity, and actually “be there” for them? Weldon does this naturally and wholeheartedly. Everyone loves him and knows he will be available to help or listen or give them the knowledge or advice they are seeking. Or the corn.

Instead of inwardly groaning when people come to see Weldon at chore time, I now realize that I can smile, listen, continue with the little jobs I am able to do on my own, or go back to playing with the kitties. The chores will get done and, in the meantime, someone is being helped or encouraged.

Maybe next time Mr. Santiago comes I will go find some empty bags for him.

“Gracias.”

“De nada.”

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