Two days ago I was walking Yoda early one morning around my parents’ rural Wisconsin neighborhood. Because I work from home, I’ve been fortunate that Yoda and I have been able to spend every August for the past six years here. It’s quiet, the people are friendly, and Mom and Dad live on a lake, so coffee breaks often involve kayaking or a jump in the water.
This particular morning, there was a foggy marine layer hanging over the lake, giving it a peaceful, otherworldly feel. The sandhill cranes were trilling in the distance. I was still pretty exhausted from a whirlwind trip to the Pacific Northwest for a wedding this past weekend, so I found myself looking at the ground in front of us while we walked, lost in my head considering whether to make myself a cup of coffee when we got home, or to go back to bed for a nap. And yes, I was cranky. There was absolutely no reason for it, but I couldn’t shake my irritable mood.
I looked up and noticed an older scraggly guy leaning against the back of his pickup truck looking at us. He was wearing work boots and a faded t-shirt. I forced a smile and said good morning to him. He didn’t respond, and instead, with what looked like a scowl, he turned away and walked to the front of his pickup truck. I remember being irritated that he didn’t smile back or answer me. I also remember doing a little exasperated eye-roll to myself once he turned away. My crankiness grew.
And then, as we walked on I heard him call after me, “Would your dog like a treat?”
It turns out that he had reached into the front seat of his truck to grab a box of dog biscuits. “Oh yes!” I said, as Yoda pulled towards him to help himself to the treat.
“I have something for you too,” he said, pulling out a plastic bucket filled with sweet corn from the bed of his pickup truck.
“I picked these from my field this morning. How many ears would you like?” he asked.
I asked for three. He gave me six.
By now my previously forced fake smile was a huge genuine one that I could barely contain. This farmer completely turned my morning around, and my smile lasted through out the day, especially at dinner when I took my first bite of that juicy warm sweet corn smothered in melted butter.
I keep thinking of the farmer and the big lesson he delivered to me this week. My rush to judgment about him being a cantankerous old man couldn’t have been further from the truth. Perhaps he had been lost in his thoughts too when I said hello, or maybe he didn’t even hear me because his truck was running. Whatever the case may be, I’m pretty sure that next time I encounter someone who seems a bit, well, crotchety, I’ll take a moment to remember the farmer and slow down my rush to judgment.