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It’s best to be face to face

Kevin Schulz crowds at Husker Harvest Days
IT’S GOOD TO SEE CROWDS: With COVID-19, it has been far too long since people have been able to gather. The crowd at Husker Harvest Days showed that people were ready to get out and be together.
People need to find a place where they belong and have common ground with others.

It was good to back in person, from field days to fairs to our very own Husker Harvest Days near Grand Island, Neb.

The 2020 version was canceled due to COVID-19, as were a lot of other events. As the calendar turned to 2021, more events were coming back on line. Maybe more accurately, more events were coming back on the ground. To replace canceled in-person events, many were held virtually, and though those offerings served a purpose and filled a void, you can’t beat being face to face.

I have attended fields days this year, but Husker Harvest Days and the South Dakota State Fair were the first major events I went to this year, and it was good to be back.

Husker Harvest Days was good for a variety of reasons. It was my first time at the large farm show, but for many in attendance, it was the first big outing since COVID-19 shut down our world. It was good seeing farmers and ranchers talking with each other, as well as with the many company representatives selling their wares. Of course, it was often repeated that companies didn’t have the product or equipment they had hoped to have on display due to glitches in the supply chain. (That is a discussion for another day.)

The dust has settled on Husker Harvest Days, as well as county and state fairs, just in time for farmers to hit the fields to bring in the harvest. Farmers are used to solitude, spending hours alone on the combines. You work with your crew and your family, but for many, that is your social circle. Churches are getting back to normal, but gathering after weekly services offers only a brief respite to the monotony of daily life.

Seek social spots

Feeling alone, frustrated or just need someone to commiserate with? Just run to the local coffee shop or what we like to call the “table of knowledge,” where coffee drinkers gather in the local convenience store. Sadly, COVID-19 has also caused some of these social outlets to shut down or to be modified.

It is sad that these social avenues have been temporarily shuttered at a time when people may need socializing the most. Drought, poor yields, lack of feed, crop pests and diseases — you name it, farmers and ranchers are living it this year, and they need a shoulder to lean on, someone to talk with.

Though we’re all in the same boat, it may seem as though you are rowing all alone with one oar on the same side of that boat, spinning aimlessly in circles.

You are not alone, you just need to find a way to gather with like-minded people — people going through the same trials as you. Maybe your church has men’s and women’s clubs. Maybe it’s a civic organization. Maybe you need to start your own group.

Enter Men’s Shed

I attended a webinar a while back spreading the word about Men’s Shed, which is an organization that started in Australia, spread to Ireland and is now trying to get a foothold in the United States. Men’s Shed is sort of a man cave, but on a grander scale, aimed at providing a place for typically older men to be shoulder to shoulder with others in that same boat. The Men’s Shed motto is “Men don’t talk face to face; we talk shoulder to shoulder.”

Men’s Shed can be a place for men to simply talk, or serve a greater purpose as a place for men to work on projects shoulder to shoulder, forming a connection with each other. Conversations that result may grow organically, rather than those being forced upon unreceptive ears.

It’s normal for people to open up to others once they find that they share common ground, and Men’s Shed aims to provide that common ground. Men’s Shed, once established, can offer men a place to gather, share a cup of coffee, tinker on a project or discuss health issues, issues that are common to a lot of us as we age.

According to the U.S. Men’s Shed Association, only about 20 locations are in the United States, so as of yet, you may not find one in your neighborhood. As the organization hopes to grow in the United States, maybe you are the one to start one in your neck of the woods or your corner of the prairie.

It’s never easy to share your deepest, most-personal thoughts and concerns. And as I mentioned before, you may feel like you are alone in those thoughts and concerns, but I guarantee you that there are others feeling the same way. You just need to find a place — wherever that may be and whatever it may look like — where you can feel comfortable enough to air your feelings.

Though that goes against how farmers and ranchers operate, it may be just what is needed. You owe it to yourself and your family to find your place where you belong.

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