Sunday, July 05, 2009

Putting old men out to pasture and a five gallon bucket of peas

My phone rang; the voice was familiar, I only hear it about once a year. It was my old Air Force buddy, Johnny. He called, light-hearted and upbeat as usual. “I lost my job” he said. He worked at a manufacturing plant about 30 miles away from his Dakota home.

He said, “I was always told that when you get to be around 60 years old, they will get rid of you. I didn’t believe it but it happened. I guess that’s how it works today when you get old—they turn you out to pasture like an old horse, headed for the glue factory.”

He lost pension benefits and health insurance. We visited; his concern is not having any health insurance. As veterans, when we went into the service, we were promised health care--another broken promise. We have none. We served 18 months in Southeast Asia but we have assets so we have no health care. For the first time, I sensed some cynicism in his voice. “What did we really expect, Beef?”

Have Johnny and I had unrealistic expectations of promises made to us as young men? You say, “Get real, Beef, we live in a different time.” Oh yes we do—or do we?

In 1 Samuel 8 we read about God’s Prophet Samuel. It says Samuel “grew old.” In verse four is says, “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

“You are old” they said to the prophet. For ages, old men have been put out to pasture like an old glue horse; Johnny and I shouldn’t be surprised. No unrealistic expectations for us if we are honest.

Johnny had a job at a nursery the day after he was let go from the job he had worked at for almost 35 years. And then he was laid off from the nursery on Wednesday of this week; but they want him back next year. On Thursday, he had a new job at a store in a nearby town.

Johnny may be “old” but he is not worthless. He lost his father at two, grew up poor, the youngest of six children—yes, he was poor. I always felt Johnny never had high expectations of life, that way the disappointments of life’s reality would not hurt as much. I guess it is a form of self preservation; he sometimes buries in a bottle of Scotch.

It is easy to point our finger and judge. I love him, he is my dear friend. He used to say, “God made me poor; at least He could have made me good looking.” Johnny is not good looking but he has a heart of gold. He would do anything for other people. I am pleased to have such a friend.

I said, “Johnny, you know what I ate for supper tonight; fresh peas and fresh garden potatoes with cream sauce.”

Johnny said, “Damn that’s good. That’s what we had also. As a matter of fact, I picked a 5 gallon pail of peas. I gave most of them away.” He wasn’t bragging, just stating a fact.

Johnny added, “Beef, we may be poor, put out to pasture old horses, but we eat better than kings. Yes, we eat better than kings.”

Johnny reminded me that God has been good to us. He may not have health insurance or much money but he has five gallons of peas of which he gave most of them away.

Thank you Johnny, for the lesson on being thankful to God.

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