Things always balance out, whether we want them to or not. Just when life seems so rapid-fire and chaotic, with everything happening at once and every day of the week — including weekends — completely packed with things that seemed important at the time, something unexpected happens and changes everything on a dime.
It happened for many farmers across the country last spring, with flooding and other extreme weather events. And it happened again this spring with COVID-19. Tragedies come and go. Disasters strike and are dealt with.
However, the little virus that put the world in panic late this winter and early spring was completely unexpected by many. It slowed life down for most of us, even in rural communities, in ways we could not have imagined.
For farmers, life goes on. Crops need to be planted. Calves need to be cared for. Fences break. Cattle get out. Machinery breaks down. Bills need to be paid. Things are always going wrong, and we find ways to fix the problems. But the human aspect of this outbreak has been difficult for many families to deal with.
For my own family, with school students in several different age groups, who are involved in numerous school and church activities, it looked in January like every week and weekend would be packed with school-related activities.
We look forward to those things as our hometown recreation and homegrown entertainment. But as much as we enjoy the activities of our children, I admit that sometimes they weigh so heavily on our time that we don’t have a moment to catch our breath.
In March, we caught our breath. With everything postponed until further notice, suddenly our calendar completely opened. Gas prices dropped, but health officials didn’t want us to go anywhere.
The COVID-19 outbreak brought my daughter in college home for the rest of the semester. It took away numerous activities on the local, district and state levels that my high school senior daughter had looked forward to for the past four years. It forced my sons in junior high and elementary school to learn in a different way. It challenged my wife to teach her students in new ways, too.
It taxed our health care systems and strained our local businesses. It brought emotions to the surface and forced us to deal head-on with deep disappointments that were out of our control.
The other thing that this outbreak has done is to slow life down considerably. Maybe not from the standpoint of work, because around the farm, that never slows down. But from a psychological standpoint, all the extra activities that we are involved with came to a complete, uncertain and unsettling standstill.
Good or bad, all the extra stuff in our lives stopped. Like so many others, we devoted more time to prayer, and more time to each other’s needs. Like folks have done during other times of tragedy and uncertainty, we turned inward toward our family, our farm, our community and our close friends.
We tried not to worry — although we really did — about things we couldn’t control. All of this was an emotional struggle for everyone, and it has taken time to adjust.
However, during this time of slowing down, we did count our blessings and take stock — as we always should — of the things in our lives that are truly important. We found that many of the things we thought were important really aren’t. And we missed most some of the things we often took for granted when life was “normal.”
COVID-19 has challenged everyone, including those of us living and working in rural America. As is always the case with challenges, we most likely will come out of it all with a little perspective that was truly needed at this time, and a renewed strength that will serve us well down the road.