By Lyn Messersmith
This winter has taken a toll on all of us. There are new lines on the faces of my family, friends and neighbors. Not many ranchers are bragging about calf crop percentages, even if they came through pretty well. You don’t want to make anyone who didn’t, feel worse than they already do. The life of every animal matters, and each death diminishes the caretakers. This kind of stress, added to the depressed financial state of agriculture, weighs heavy on hearts, but here’s something interesting. Most of us, if we admit to being discouraged at all, will quickly adda disclaimer.“Compared to the people in eastern Nebraska, we don’t have a right to complain.”It’s true that many people have lost everything, including the chance to start over, and the effects of these disasters will have repercussions for years to come. Our prayers go out to folks in those circumstances, and we do what we can to help, but denying our own feelings is unhealthy. Sort of like saying you don’t have a right to be worried if your sister has cancer, because your cousin’s husband is dead, so she’s the one to concentrate on. But deep down, your fear is that you too will lose someone precious, and you worry about that quietly, while offering hugs and cooking food for the funeral dinner. And you feel guilty for not focusing totally on the person who has lost much more.The drama about disaster has subsided, for the moment, and we go about our routines with little thought to the aftermath. If you live in town, you’re thinking about dandelions, fertilizer, painting the house, or getting ready for a track meet or graduation party. You did something nice to mitigate the losses and now you can get back to normal. But look again. Folks in agriculture will never see the normal they were used to again, and many people haven’t got eyes to see that a new normal is upon all of us. It will manifest in the grocery store, because we all eat, in higher taxes, because there is a lot of repair work to be done, and in our spending habits.My parents lived through the Depression, and they never got over it. I lived with my parents’ reactions to those times, andI’ve never gotten over it either. Mom became a hoarder, of sorts.Her cupboards and closets were full of stuff she had purchased“just in case” the economy went south like that again. Dad never bought a thing he could do without, including electric and phone service. He never bought on credit, or owned any extra anything. To him, the biggest sin was to be in debt. He maintained the ranch that his parents had homesteaded, but improvements were few. His response to early poverty was to continue living poor so his descendants wouldn’t have to. He’s the reason that a fifth generation is working that ranch today, learning about hard times and how to survive them.Like my family, most farmers and ranchers have made improvements and gotten progressive in management, but those decisions will be approached more carefully now, if we want to keep providing food for your shelves and freezers.Winston Churchill famously said, “Never, never, never, give up.” One of my cousins said, “We don’t always see in color, sometimes just the shadows.” Those of us who Ma Nature left with choices this winter are doing our best to live by that.Churchill also said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil,tears and sweat.” His generation survived incredible hardships with everyone on board for the cause. It changed them, and the world, mostly for the better. We’re on the cusp of change now.Will we choose come out of the shadows and use compassion to build a better world?