You hear it a lot this time of year, the phrase “peace on earth, good will toward men.” It first appeared in Like 2: 14 as the shepherds announcing the birth of Christ. It is part of the carol “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and it is written in glitter on thousands of Christmas cards. It is something we all long for, but rarely take the time and effort to obtain and grant.
When most of us think of peace on earth, we think big picture: no more war, no more injustice, no more social unrest, the kinds of things Miss America contestants always says they have as their life’s goal. The reality is, in our world, this is not going to happen. Yet, finding some personal peace on earth is a lot closer and easier to achieve. We overcomplicate the process by turning to pharmacology, theology, or technology. Finding a little peace on earth may be as close as your back door.
Jimmy Emmons is a third generation family farmer and rancher in eastern Oklahoma. With 2,000 acres of farmland and 7,000 of rangeland, he keeps busy. When he wants to find a little peace of earth he simply takes a walk, “Sometimes I just go out into a pasture and listen to my cattle graze. Just listening to them is a very therapeutic experience.” Several other farmers I spoke with recently also talked about just taking a walk around the farm, not to check on things, or to make a list of what needs to be done, but just to reconnect with nature.
Farming is a stressful and dangerous business. A recent report highlighted the alarmingly high suicide rate among farmers. Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishermen, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.
Especially in difficult economic times, after a harvest that gave you better yields but less revenue than you expected, it is a time to find a little peace on earth. The holidays are a time of joy, but also a time to reconnect with your farm and the nature that surrounds it. Some alone time in your field, pasture, barn, or machine shop might be more helpful than you can imagine.
Then there is that good will toward men thing. We have not seen much of that this year. The tenor of the conversation in the media is shrill and divisive. The tone of web and social media conversations is vitriolic. So, perhaps turning off the television and the computer and connecting with real people face to face would help. I generally find it harder to be offended or to be offensive in a face to face situation.
So, as we celebrate over the next few weeks, take some time to find some peace and try to find something respectable and redeemable about your fellow man. It may not change the world, but it may improve your world a little. When you see, say, or sing, “peace of earth good will to men,” think about how you can make that happen in your life.
By Gary Truitt