By Lisa Huddleston
This summer, Wednesday has been the day to mow the grass—several acres of it. In the good ol’ days, this job belonged to my sons, more recently we hired my nephew to do it, but this year I chose to make it mine. It’s one way I can contribute to the unified good of the family (now just Chuck, Mom and me), and I usually don’t mind doing it. But today was hot! With the weathermen calling for a heat index of over 100 degrees and the humidity dripping, yard work was really the last thing I had on my mind. But today was Wednesday, and I knew Thursday wouldn’t be getting any cooler.
Since I’ve been handling this job for several months now, I have a pretty standard routine down. I start at the far end up by the gate and work my way down to the garden where I have to weave the large machine between the berry canes and the fruit trees and the two rows of vegetables. Next I move to the small sections on either side of the front walk and then head around to finish up in the back yard.
But today I had an unexpected interruption. As I made the first sweep along the long, plank fence between the yard and the pasture, my eye caught something stirring in the tall “yellowtops” that paint the field. I kept the mower going but tried to see what was struggling to stand up to my right. Then I saw the poor newborn calf tottering on shaky legs and looking at me. “Oh no—not this again,” I literally moaned.
Although I wasn’t raised in the country, this ain’t my first rodeo down on the farm. I have come to face the dire truth that every year there are one or two calves who don’t make it; but, I still hate it when I see a baby left alone to suffer. And today it was just so darn hot! But after shedding a few tears, I deliberately hardened my heart and just kept mowing. I knew from past experience that my efforts would be for naught. The cows weren’t mine, and I didn’t have any way to help. I steeled myself and kept mowing. Back and forth I went and up and down the poor calf went. When he lay back down I couldn’t see him in the weedy flowers, and I tried to put him out of my mind. I even prayed out loud for God to harden my heart. What had happened to me?
There was a time when my children were small that we would call the owner of the cattle to come help—but I had long since given up hope there. He was a busy man with a full-time job and cattle on several farms. He wouldn’t be coming, I knew. Another time the kids and I had followed a calf with an eye infection all over the field trying to give it some water to keep it alive. He ran away from the help I offered, and I never did reach the poor thing. But at least I had always been tenderhearted toward suffering animals. What was wrong with me now?
But, no, I had a job to do, and my previous efforts had been in vain. It was useless. Period. But I did change my prayer to, “Please, God, send his mother back to get him!” I pleaded as I mowed. But my prayers, too, seemed vain. Finally, I couldn’t keep going. It had been over an hour and the poor thing was still lying there in the stifling heat. I parked the mower in the shade, walked down to the garage, got a towel, and filled a bucket with cool water. At least I hoped to ease his suffering—although I knew I didn’t have what he really needed. I had to do something.
Slipping in wet flip flops, I lugged my bucket through the yard, out the gate, and into the dry, crunchy field. The calf, a little boy, was standing now and watching me come toward him. I talked in a soft, sing-songy way thinking that might make me seem less scary while he just stood and stared. I slowly walked right up to him, dipped my hand in the water, and reached out to let it trickle down his nose. He looked surprised and then kicked up his heels scampering a few feet away. He didn’t look so bad after all! He watched me for several seconds then headed off at a trot—a good, healthy-looking trot—toward the shade of the woods.
I knew I’d never catch him, so I smiled and emptied my bucket in the dirt. At least the “yellowtops” at my feet would get something out of my attempts to help. I still wished I could see the calf’s missing mother, but I was glad to know that he was healthy and strong enough to run. The cattle would be back, and I hoped that he would be okay until they returned on their daily rounds.
Relieved I put the bucket away and walked back to the mower to finish my work. Was I disappointed that I’d given in to my emotions? No! Even though, once again, I didn’t manage to do any good for the calf, I was glad to know that I still cared enough to try. And isn’t that what really matters—caring enough to try? Faith and works. Yep. I think so.
As Jesus said, “There will be poor always.” But I hope that I will always care enough to at least try to ease the suffering in the world. To give a cup (or bucket) of cold water in Jesus’ name is a powerful thing changing the lives of the thirsty as well as the one who extends the cup.
I’m thankful you didn’t give me the hard heart I requested today, Lord. Keep me soft enough always to care even though that means there will be more tears and pain. But I wouldn’t mind your answering my prayer about that little calf’s momma. Please, send her back soon and strengthen her little boy. Amen.