Work has been hard these last few weeks…er, months? The economy has finally caught up with higher education, and budgets are tight. Morale is low and stress is high.
These times are hurting people who I love and respect. Some of them don’t know what to do next; some do, and that next is taking them away from the place we’ve worked together. The latter make me sad, but the former make me sadder. I want it all to stay the same, to be like it was. But nothing that is good ever stays the same. It must grow or die.
When reorganizations happened last time, I cried a lot. It was a much smaller devastation then, and we all survived. This time, I’m not crying, not yet. I’m not sure if that makes me hard or just realistic. Mature? Cold?
Or maybe I just realize that I need to move forward and do my work.
Last weekend, I heard an old storyteller stand up in front of some graduates and tell a tale about an even older man named Leonard Harris. When the storyteller went to Leonard’s funeral, person after person stood up to tell stories about this good man. One story revolved around Leonard stumbling across a man tilling his field during the Great Depression. The man had nothing to plant, because his family had no food to eat and so they had eaten the seed corn. Leonard gave him $5 to go buy some seeds, and the family did not starve.
The amazing part of the story, said my old storyteller, is not that Leonard shared an enormous amount of money in a time when even a dime was scarce. That is a good part of the story. The amazing part is that a farmer went out, hitched up his mules, and began to till his field…with no seeds. He made furrows in the hard ground, pockets of dirt with nothing to put inside.
He tilled the ground.
Sometimes all we can do is our jobs. All we can do is carry on and strive and plow that darn ground even if there isn’t a thing to put in it. Maybe it’s pointless, or foolish, or wasteful, or pathetic. Or maybe, just maybe, something will happen. Something extraordinary. Maybe the dirt will begin to grow. Or maybe we’ll just become strong.
I do not want to downplay any pain that you have, work-related or otherwise. But I’ve found this to be true: that God sometimes jolts us out of the normal in order to place us in the extraordinary. And that things end, things begin, but they are just moments on a timeline. And most importantly, sometimes all we can do is hitch up the mules and do the task in front of us, carry on and trust that the extraordinary will emerge.
Maybe in the form of good men and women, like Leonard Harris. Or maybe just in ourselves.