2017-07-06 / Opinions

Strawberries are best with sugar and cream and a porch swing ... not a load of manure

By ROGER ALFORD
columnist

A farmer was driving along with a load of manure when he passed by a little boy playing in a yard.

“Something stinks,” the little boy called out. “What do you have in your truck?”

“Fertilizer,” the farmer replied. “I’m going to put it on my strawberries.”

“You ought to live here with us,” the boy said. “We put sugar and cream on ours.”

That farmer might have known the best way to grow strawberries, but that little boy knew the best way to eat them. I’m not sure there’s anything better than strawberries with sugar and cream, unless it’s blackberries cooked into a pot of dumplings, which was a midsummer delight in the community where I grew up. God really did create a world of wonders for us in the tasty foods we enjoy, in the beauty of the countryside where we live, in the kindnesses of our families and friends.

As we grow older, we become more mindful that we should take time to enjoy the good things that God has put in our lives, whether it be a peach so luscious that juice drips off our elbows, the smell of fresh air after a summer rain, the view from a high mountain lookout, morning dew on bare feet, leaning on a gate watching cows graze, gazing skyward as a V of honking geese pass overhead, walking with our families along a country lane, celebrating that first fish caught by one of our little ones.

That’s because, as we grow older, we realize that our time on this earth really is short, as the Bible declares: “Your life is like the morning fog; it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14). We need to enjoy the good days for bad ones are certain to come.

Some wise person once said that growing old is not for sissies. It’s a tough, painful process. We deal with all kinds of hurts along the way. Thankfully, we have Jesus who will be right there with us when life gets tough. My friend and neighbor, Damon Rains, always assures everyone of the Lord’s faithfulness. He’s 95, a World War II vet, and as solid a Southern Baptist as you’ll ever meet.

To Damon, it seems like just yesterday that he, as a rambunctious kid, hopped a coal train to see what was beyond the tiny East Tennessee community where he was born. Damon remains an active and adventurous sort. He actually played softball in a church league a couple years ago, earning a front page headline in the newspaper: “Still swinging for the fences.”

I saw Damon sitting on his porch swing the other day, and I couldn’t resist stopping in to visit. He told me he’d had a heart attack a few weeks ago, that he’d spent several days in the hospital and many more days recovering at home. But, he cheerfully announced, that he’s doing a lot better now.

I love listening to Damon reminisce about his life, whether about growing up in a coal town in the Appalachians or fighting the Nazis a world away as a young machine gunner in the Army. Those chapters of Damon’s life may seem long, long ago to a younger generation, but he’d chuckle and tell you the years have flown by.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll make 95 one day. And when you do, I hope you’re able to think back over a life of porch swings, and strawberries, and happy times, and that you’ll ponder the years and see, like Damon, that Jesus was right there with you all the time.

(Roger Alford offers words of encouragement to residents of America’s heartland. Reach him at rogeralford1@gmail.com.)

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