The best moments always happen unexpectedly, say the wise, and it serves as a reminder to live with a heart open to all possibilities.
It was a perfectly calm autumn day here on this quiet farm; nothing of great note having riled any feathers. I had spent the afternoon carrying to the barn things that needed putting away before the weather change surely coming our way. In between chores, I worked at training the young pup, Kip, who is proving himself a good farm dog.
A knock at the door as I started to prepare our evening meal surprised me, as I hadn’t heard a car or truck come up our lane. The barking dogs let me know I had indeed heard correctly.
A tall, kindly Amish man greeted me with a smile. He introduced himself, telling me he has read my Farm and Dairy column for 27 years, recalling the very first one he happened upon, adding with a grin, “Now, I don’t want my name showing up in your writings!”
As he told me a bit about himself, it began to occur to me what a long way he had traveled by horse and buggy. Nearly 30 miles lie between his home and mine.
He asked if I had known Don Sutherland, and I told him that was my father-in-law. He knew him well, and had repaired many shoes for him back when Don had a walking route with the postal service.
He described him as an easy-going gentleman, and I agreed with that wholeheartedly. He enjoys reading about my father, saying much I have written reminds him very much of his own father, and he regrets never having met the man who raised me.
As we talked, he said he also knew my brothers-in-law, the twins, who had served as Huron County sheriff and deputy, because he had hand-tooled leather holsters for the department, and knew from reading my column that Bob had passed.
After a nice chat, it was clear this gentleman was a loyal reader, asking about our barn fire and various other life events I have shared over many years. We talked as we walked to his buggy, introducing me to his sister who had made the long trip with him.
He said he had something for me, and to my surprise, a package with a beautifully hand-made leather dog collar was inside. As I looked closer, it was engraved with the name “Billy” in tribute to the great dog we lost over the past winter. I felt the rush of involuntary tears that a deep and generous kindness can bring as I thanked him for this lovely and unexpected gift.
An old Japanese proverb says that “one kindness can warm three winter months.” The sun would long set before my visitors would reach their home to the north of us, and the chill in the air was growing sharp. I said a prayer for their warmth and safety, the skies growing darker, as I stepped inside and placed the gift from this new friend on a special shelf.
Billy, the incredibly happy-hearted dog who welcomed everyone with such joy that strangers stopping by often left as friends, once again helped bring good people in to our lives. What an amazing gift.
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