Tuesday, March 17, 2009

But they don't say 'farm', they say 'ranch' out West...

(Thanks to Jonathan Richman in his song 'Circle I' for today's title) I created my own "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" last weekend.

This was a daring move. A child is unpredicatable (not a bad thing), but poses a problem if she decides to misbehave while I'm preaching or leading worship. My dear wife was at her own congregation, and my youngest was with her grandparents in Minnesota. Collateral damage possibilities were reduced, but I was also on my own. I had to remain calm and trust my daughter to be a good kid 200 miles from home.

Why take such a risk? I have a principle--though not quite formed. Sioux Falls is a bubble. Though my daughter has traveled to Norway, the UK, Ireland, Canada, at least 6 or 7 of the United States, she still lives in a bubble. This is not necessarily a bad thing for a child, I existed in the Western Washington bubble for most of my childhood--but I was also aware of other places and their differences. My granddad made sure of it. We talked of their extensive travels in the State of Washington as a newspaper administrator. We talked of their travels around the country.

Many people in Sioux Falls don't really care that other parts of the State of South Dakota exist. They may travel to the Black Hills and Rapid City on occasion. They may go watch their children play sports in some of the bigger towns in the state--but I see little knowledge of their South Dakotan brothers and sisters and what their lives are really like. They don't have to--everything anyone needs as a Sioux Falls resident is in Sioux Falls. This way of life is perfectly adequate for many people and certainly not to be decried; my principle is perspective. Though Sioux Falls puts of an air of agricultural influence, one can avoid it as a Sioux Falls resident. I wanted my daughter to see more of South Dakota. I want her to learn something more about where she was born--where her mother and father have served for 8 years, the goodness of the people that help put food on her plate, the beauty and diversity of God's creation, that congregations are different--even when they are close together. So we went to a farm/ranch out in the middle of South Dakota, graciously hosted by a family in one of the congregations where I preach.

I really don't have much farm experience myself. I have acquainted myself with rural people during my time in South Dakota--sometimes getting to know them quite well. I don't really appreciate the romanticizing of rural or agricultural life--I guess I hold a Lutheran theology of valuing vocation and land in general. We all need each other. I find it important that my children have that exposure--to appreciate God's work in the world and that we have a part in God's work. The lesson was fun. My daughter wandered the land, with her host, both people and animals, she poked and ground her hands and feet in the dirt, mud and water. She walked among the cows and their newborn calves. She attached herself to one in particular--with the ID tag marked "411." She jumped from hay bale to hay bale, and gathered eggs from a small hen house--eggs that we ate for breakfast the next morning. I'm glad she has learned some of the lessons of gratitude. After gathering the eggs she exclaimed, "Thanks, chickens!"

One of my own lessons was what a structured life my daughter lives. She has few opportunities to explore. This land gave her the opportunity to do that. The farm invites this kind of exploration, and the hosts not only made it possible, they made it graceful and joyful.

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