“Try to understand men. If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate, and almost always leads to love.”
— John Steinbeck, journal entry, 1938
I have long thought that this world, often run by misdeeds and greed, could be a much better place if only there was an understanding of what breeds malcontent in its earliest germination process.
My brothers-in-law, one a sheriff and the other his deputy, served for many years in Huron County, Ohio. Twins, ornery souls who loved playing pranks by trading places in some of the silliest stories, had learned from early childhood that there is great levity in laughter. Even in the toughest, most dire circumstances, we touch our inner child through shared impish behavior.
Both twins knew that fear can come from seeing uniformed officers come to your door, especially for young children who stand innocent in all the behaviors that led to their arrival. Bob was the soft-touch, and in all domestic disputes, he searched for the children, entertained them with stuffed animals or whatever magic he could pull from his heart, while a second officer sorted out the adult disputes out of earshot.
Upon Bob’s death, one of those youngsters, now a grown woman, wrote the sweetest letter to commend him. All those years later, now living several states away, she took the time to share with us how much his kindness helped to shape that frightening night and, consequently, the days and months to come.
“He took what had clearly been the most frightening night of my life and erased a whole lot of the fear simply by caring about a scared little girl. He cared enough to carry me around, sing silly songs and give me a stuffed animal he seemed to pull from thin air,” she wrote.
Both of these good men are now gone. The rest of us try to honor their memory by attempting to follow their lead, and in most instances, I find myself offering a smile to an unhappy child, but feel like I fall far short in making a difference.
A little bit of grace can erase invisible walls that we tend to put up to protect ourselves. Reaching out a hand, lending an ear, and starting a conversation can break down those walls. Understanding one another’s path is the first step, and is a step worth taking.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!