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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A letter to my father

Dear Dad,

I wish I could talk to you, Dad. I wish I could hop in the car, drive to the farm, pull up a chair at your kitchen table, and talk to you, while you fried yourself an egg, or ate one of mom’s buns with jam. There are so many things I’d bring to the table, Dad – so many things I’d like to hear your opinion about. We’d talk about the kids, the farm, and the state of the world. I’d show you some of the stuff I’d gotten published lately, and you’d smile your sideways smile as you bent your head.

Here’s what’s been on my mind lately, Dad – it seems so unfair that, shortly after you died, I got a job that has so much to do with who you are and how you raised us. It’s all about farming and stewardship and generosity and helping those less fortunate than us. It’s also about diverse faith groups finding a way to get past their theological differences and work together to do what God calls us to do – end hunger.

You would have smiled at me, Dad, if I’d told you what I did last Friday. I went on a field trip – a LITERAL field trip. I visited some farm groups and stood out there in their fields, admiring their crops of wheat and oats and soybeans. I listened to them talk about this year’s growing season – they’ve had too much heat and not enough rain. I let them teach me how, if you rub the husk off a strand of wild oats and then spit in your hand, the wild oat seed will begin to twist in your hand. Imagine that – the child you thought would be least likely to end up standing in a field talking to a farmer, working in a job where farming is part of my daily conversations. I even read farm papers these days, to stay on top of the issues and find out how the crops are doing. Strange, isn’t it?

The farm groups we visited were community growing projects that get together to grow a crop which they donate to our organization so that we can ship food overseas to provide food to people who are hungry. Last year, Dad, I got to go to Kenya and Tanzania to see where some of that food gets shipped. You would have loved it, Dad. It’s an amazing place to visit!

It’s all great stuff, Dad, but there’s something that’s been troubling me a bit lately, and I wish I could bend your ear for awhile and hear what you have to say on the subject. You see, the fields we visited on Friday, well, there was something just too perfect about the crops on those fields. We stood there listening to the farmers tell us about the process they go through to prepare the land, fertilize it, spray it, plant it with perfect seed (some of which has been genetically modified) and then spray it again so that it all dies at a uniform rate and is all ready to harvest at the same time. Maybe it’s all okay, but there was just something so clinical to it – so methodical. It didn’t seem rhythmical, the way nature is meant to be. It didn’t seem entirely natural.

Do you think we’re doing the right thing, Dad, with all these chemicals and genetically modified organisms? Do you think we’re treating God’s green earth the way we’re supposed to be treating it? I think of how you struggled to grow a decent crop, how you spread manure on the fields, how you let the land rest now and then, how you taught us to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted us with, and I wonder what you’d think of all this big-business farming now.

I know there are no easy answers in all of this. People need food, and, the truth is, North Americans have gotten used to perfect, pretty food, so they don’t necessarily want the stuff that’s grown the way nature grows it, with imperfections and all. Beyond that, though, there’s also the fact that we need to share our food, and according to some of the experts, there’s no way to end hunger in the world without the use of chemicals and GMOs.

I guess it just doesn’t sit right with me all the time. God created a bountiful world. God doesn’t want people to be hungry. God wants his people to figure out how to bring balance to the world where all have enough to eat. So wouldn’t God have designed the world to be able to produce enough food without all the tinkering we’ve been doing? On the other hand, maybe God made us with scientific capacity to figure it out with science and not just nature. I just don’t know.

I know you don’t know the answers to these questions, Dad, but it would have made for an interesting conversation, wouldn’t it? If only I could sit at your table and talk with you again.

Heather

p.s. Thanks for leaving behind those pictures, Dad. We all really appreciated them. I've got a couple of them hanging on my wall. I guess it's those pictures and what they represent that makes me think that a man with so much respect for God's creation (including dandelions) would have a few questions about how much we seem to be acting like owners instead of stewards of the earth.

6 comments:

Karla said...

What a great post Heather!

Wow! You've been to Africa? That's amazing!

Isn’t it a devastating shame that the children in Tanzania are starving when there is a bountiful supply of the Nile Perch that could nourish and feed them, but instead the fish are shipped out of the country to be sold elsewhere in the world. It just doesn’t make sense.

Dale said...

Next week is my birthday week. I have a weeks vacation starting on the 24th and I plan to visit my parents. With your permission, Heather, I'd like to copy this post and print it for them to read. May I?

And congrats on all your success and current happiness. You are truly blessed, aren't you?

Anvilcloud said...

Your father would be thrilled by this post. you do both him and yourself great credit.

Heather said...

Karla - yes, I had the great fortune of traveling to Africa last year. If you're interested in my journal from the trip, I posted it all on the blog back in February 2005. You're right - there are lots of instances where there is plenty of food, but it's not getting to the people who need it. In Kenya, we saw miles and miles of good farmland being used to grow roses or pineapples so we can buy them cheap in the store instead of for food to feed the locals.

Dale - you are more than welcome to print the article for your parents. Tell me about it later - perhaps I can live vicariously through you, having a conversation with your Dad. :-)

Janet said...

Heather,

I cried my way through your beautiful post. What a loving tribute! Your father would indeed be VERY proud of you...and obviously he lives through you and YOUR work.

I didn't realize, until I read about the pictures, how your dad had died. I lost my father at too early an age also, but due to a long illness. THAT was hard enough to bear. But to have lost him, suddenly, in an accident...I just don't know how I would have coped.

I SO wish to have a conversation now with my own father...even if it was only one. I think he would approve of the interesting turn my life has taken. He always admired the British.

Janet

(lordcelery.blogspot.com)

Dwight said...

Thanks for sharing that. I sure wish I could have some good talks with him too these days.

Hey, that trick with the wild oats and the spit, I remember Dad showing me that when I was a kid...