What I’ve Learned

The hide is coming along
The hide is coming along

Not so long ago, as part of my reporting on a story I’m working on, I attended a meeting in a community not far from here. At the end of the meeting, each person was asked to say something about what they’d gleaned from the gathering. Or about anything, really. A fellow sitting a few chairs down from me, dressed in classic business attire, said this: “I’ve learned that to be successful in life, it’s helpful surround yourself with successful people.” The crowd nodded its agreement.

The next morning, Melvin was up to breed not one, but two of our girls. It’s mighty convenient when milk cows synchronize their heats, one of those small rural blessings the overwhelming majority of the world will never be aware of (another of those blessings is to have a neighbor who’s attended school for the fine art of artificial insemination). Anyway, two cows in heat was a little much excitement for Snook, our yearling steer, and he’d busted out of the day paddock to accompany the ladies down to the barn for their date with Melvin.

As Penny and Melvin and I were standing in the barnyard chatting, I made a passing reference to Snook’s escape. Melvin looked at us in that way he has, which might best be described as a look of minor merriment at all the minor curiosities of life. “He’s not out,” Melvin said. “He’s just not where you put him.”

I’ve learned that to be light-hearted in life, it’s helpful to surround yourself with light-hearted people.

A couple days after that, Penny and I were up at the neighbors, moving our freezer out of their woodshed (more on this in a future post, as it relates to our decision to connect to the utility grid and all the ramifications thereof). It was an awkward move, what with the big step down from the shed and a variety of other factors too complicated to explain here. All of which is to say, we were struggling a bit more than I care to admit. Which is precisely when Jimmy happened by, on his way home from evening milking, on the tail end of a 14-hour work day, which is to say, at the end of average day for him. I saw his truck pass, then heard him slow his big diesel, then clunk into reverse. Without even asking, he was out of his truck and on the tricky end of the freezer and in a few almost effortless seconds we had it on the bed of our truck.

I’ve learned that to be generous in life, it’s helpful to surround yourself with generous people.

After Jimmy helped us load the freezer, we stood at talked for a few minutes about something unexpected that had recently happened in his life that meant he will need to think very hard about the precise future of his operation. It is nothing tragic, but it was not what he’d been expecting, and I can see that it’s thrown him a bit. “Oh well,” he said. “I can always pick up a couple thousand more taps and make more syrup.” He flashed a grin. “I love making syrup, anyhow.”

I’ve learned that to be positive and resilient in life, it’s helpful to surround yourself with positive and resilient people.

Sometimes it seems like the best teachers in my life pop up in the most unlikely places.


14 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned”

  1. That is so true and the opposite is true also. Get rid of the negative in your life to get away from negative. Love your posts.. Mary

  2. Ain’t that the truth! – Renée-Lucie

    PS I just submitted an essay to Real Simple. Of course, immediately I wanted to take it back and work on it more. But it’s there so I can’t. Wish me luck! The 3 grand would come in so handy.

  3. the perfect post for this rainy day. I had a lot of yard work to do, now i’ll be happily working inside. thanks! (i’m thinking about pickling)

  4. It would seem the suit and yourself are saying the same thing, his sounds like a canned response, yours sounds like a genuine one.

  5. Nearly everything you need to know right there in a nutshell. I am smiling out loud. Delightfully true and artfully rendered, this post is the essence of why I like your writing so much.

  6. I think I’ll add this to the Golden Rule as one of the few things I think one needs to do to have a good life. Thanks, Ben. Another inspiring post!

  7. success should be defined by each person for themselves…perhaps the speaker’s success was monetary, perhaps emotional, perhaps mental…it’s like when my youngest asked me the other day if we are rich. I told him that rich is different to different people. We don’t have a lot of money (though we do okay), but we are very rich in people that love us, friends that are there for us, and rich in love within our family. As usual Ben, enjoyed this post and the experiences you relayed to show your point.

  8. This is a really awesome post. Syria has confused me. Social media has confused me. The weeds and the Indian summer have confused me.
    So what does that make me, man? Lonely?

    If you want to be confused surround yourself with Eumaeus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s