Husband Dan and I have some friends (I will call them Sue and Frank) who own around 1,000 acres, acres that formerly fed 475 milk cows. The cows were milked three times a day, an endeavor that, as you can imagine, required several farm workers.
Changes in the economy saw most of the cattle and milking equipment sold and the farm turned into a beef and soybean farm, something much less labor intensive and requiring a much smaller workforce. Both Sue and Frank had jobs and even though the farm was much less labor intensive now, they needed one good worker.
Finding one good worker in a farming community is not easy, but Frank’s family knew of one young man who I will call Joe. Joe’s reputation was not good; he had a bad temper, and was known to walk off the job, but Frank’s family knew about Joe’s chaotic, unguided, laced-with-drama childhood, a childhood no one should endure. Frank decided to give Joe a chance.
Frank moved Joe into the nicest employee housing they owned, a double-wide mobile home. Joe, who had never had his own place, was thrilled.
Frank noticed that Joe always covered his mouth; his teeth were terrible. Frank told Joe to go to the dentist and when Joe said he couldn’t afford it, Frank said, “We’ll worry about that later, go to the dentist.” Joe got his teeth fixed and Frank paid the bill.
Joe came to Frank and told him he was depressed all the time, anxious, volatile. Frank took him to the local doctor who prescribed anti-depressant pills. When after a week Joe told Frank he was out of the 30-day supply of pills, Frank went back to the doctor and explained the situation. The doctor prescribed 30 more pills with the understanding that Frank would personally oversee their distribution. Frank solved the problem by putting one pill in a bottle and hiding it around the farm, texting Joe every day as to the whereabouts of his morning pill.
As Joe became used to love and care, he blossomed into a man of integrity, a man who, without anyone asking, dropped by Frank’s widowed mother’s house to fix anything needing fixing or mow what needed to be mowed. Frank’s mother responded with sandwiches, cookies, and more love and concern.
Joe is not perfect, he still has a temper, but he now knows there is another side to life; a gentler, kinder life, a life in which he can participate.
We all know a Joe. Sometimes we are Joe. Sometimes we can help Joe. Joe’s story reminds me to reach out to the Joe I know and to help where I can. Love, concern, caring, something we all need, something we need to give and something we need to receive.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.