By: Jerry D. Miller, Plain Values
Our human tendency is to want to be independent. We do not want to rely on others, but the irony of it is, God created us to be dependent on each other when he created a man and woman in the Garden of Eden.
This Month’s Question:
Homesteaders are often encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible. How can I overcome the pride of being self-sufficient so that I can reconnect with my community?
Answered by: JerryD. Miller, a deaconin his local Amish church
The reality is we all deal with some degree of pride. And we all probably love our self-sufficiency. But we as human beings are wired for companionship. We need each other. And when the chips are down, we really need each other. Sooner or later most of us come to realize autonomy comes with a price; maybe more of a price than we are willing to pay.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark where we find the account of the four men bearing their friend on a cot and opening up the roof to let him down to Jesus. Now let’s imagine this scene for just a moment. The crush of people. The difficulty of getting close to Jesus. They could have easily given up, but they loved their friend on the bed, and one of them came up with the idea of opening up the roof and letting him down with ropes.
Do we not all long for friends like these? They needed people to direct traffic—to open up paths for them to carry their friend, and someone was on the roof opening it up. In other words, it took a community. Everyone could chip in and play some small part in this drama, and what about the man on the cot? One wonders what was his attitude. Did he encourage his carriers or was he too proud to think he needed help?
Sometimes I think this man was beyond making any decisions, and his neighbors simply took the proverbial “bull by the horns” and just got it done. To bring this point closer to home, I’m reminded of a story I read of a young man who slipped on a stairwell and tore his quadricep muscle—it took surgery and a long period of being bedfast to heal his injury. This man was a star ACC college basketball player and an incredibly gifted athlete who suddenly needed help. He made the comment that humility is found when you can’t dress or undress yourself. Yes, we love our autonomy, but when we pursue autonomy to the point where we simply don’t need our neighbors, we pay a high price indeed.
A powerful happening that I witnessed myself shaped my view of humility and sharing. Allow me to tell you a little story. It happened in January of 1978 when our barn collapsed due to the weight of snow and wind. During the time of clean-up and rebuilding, many people showed up to help. Thank you to all of them. But one incident stood out—even after all these years: a man from the most conservative Amish group showed up to help.
This fellow was not rich in worldly goods, nor was he a close neighbor—he was a man we barely knew. I don’t recall his name. I just know that, along about noontime, he knocked on our door, and Mom, who was a widow, answered the beckoning. This man pulled a box of mac-n-cheese out from under his overcoat and gave it to Mom. Now, I dare say that he and his family probably never sat down to eat a meal of boxed mac-n-cheese. He simply gave the best he had. This is so very humbling. When I think of this incident, I still feel a kinship, a relationship forged through a very simple act; profound, powerful, and enduring—inadequate adjectives to describe his selfless giving. As the youngest child in a family of eleven children, we learned about working together at a young age. When Mom said supper is ready at six o’clock tonight, we showed up at ten-till. To be late for supper meant you didn’t get your share. I can’t imagine the blessing that people miss out on when little Johnny dictates when supper is ready and what he eats. Growing up, we were poor, but for the most part, we didn’t know it. Our neighbors shared and shared alike. This a long answer to a short question. Always remember: humility is an elusive thing when you congratulate yourself on your humbleness, once again fostering pride.
This article was published in the December2022 issue of Plain Values Magazine. If you want the latest Q&A’s every month (including two panelist answers), subscribe to the magazine at plainvalues.com. As a special thanks, get 10% off your subscription with the code “GAB23”!
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Jerry and Gloria Miller, along with their six children, operate Gloria’s home farm, a 173-acre organic dairy. They milk between 60 and 70 cows with a few small cottage industries supplementing the farm income. Jerry is a deacon in his local Amish church.