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Hanging On


"Sustained winds of 50 miles per hour and higher," blared the radio.
My wife was listening to the radio. She has a love-hate relationship
with our Minnesota weather. This has turned her into a bit of a 
weather junkie. She finds our weather both intriguing and frightening.
Her feelings are not unlike those of a child watching a particularly 
scary horror movie--nearly scared to death, yet seldom feeling so alive.
I found myself staring out the window. Lightning filled the sky and 
rumbling thunder shook the house. 

Rain began to fall. The trees were bending in the strong wind. However, 
it was none of these things that was commanding my attention. It was a 
little blue and white bird that I could not take my eyes off of. I was 
looking at a Tree Swallow--a small bird that nests in an old bluebird box 
in our rural yard. The tiny swallow, weighing at most three-quarters of 
an ounce, was hanging on with dear life to a small branch of a tree. Its 
mate was sitting on eggs inside the nest cavity. The wind blew harder 
and harder, almost as though it was determined to shake the tiny bird 
free from its perch. The bird's plight caused me to reflect on the 
trials of a friend. 

When my friend Keith broke his leg, he felt that it was the last straw. 
Keith, a farmer all of his life, had been suffering from leukemia for a 
year and a half, and a bone marrow transplant had produced disappointing 
results. The leukemia had gone into remission, but the bone marrow hadn't 
started reproducing as everyone had hoped. Things just hadn't been working 
out. Keith was pulling a wagon with a four-wheeler when a freak accident 
happened, breaking his leg. It was one of those cases where just as you 
think that things can't possibly get any worse, they get worse. 

Keith found himself laid up and with 160 acres of beans in the fields that 
needed harvesting. It looked as if his wife and his 82-year-old father 
would have to try to harvest the beans. Things were looking bad. Then a 
miracle happened. The miracle came in the form of good neighbors. In the 
spirit of good Samaritans, two neighbors organized five volunteer crews.
Trucks and combines poured into Keith's fields and made short work of the
harvest. In less than three hours, Keith's fields were bean-free. The 
project took longer to plan than to do. 

I believe that neighbors are meant to help neighbors. I once tried to talk 
my father into buying a neighbor's farm. The neighbor wasn't much of a 
farmer and really didn't tend to his business. Besides, we could have used 
a little extra land. I will never forget my father's answer to one of my 
pleas. It was one of those responses that comes with its very own life's 
lesson. He told me that he would rather have the neighbor than the 
neighbor's land. At the time, I thought he was terribly old-fashioned and 
had let his feelings get in the way of good business sense. 

Watching the neighboring farmers harvest Keith's beans made me realize how 
right my father was. I felt good watching so many people get together to 
help a neighbor who was down on his luck. I knew that Keith would reciprocate 
if given the chance. A fundraiser was organized for Keith and many people 
worked and donated to a worthy cause. A meal was served to an overflowing 
crowd at the local school. As I remembered these events, my thoughts and 
prayers were with Keith. I hoped for his rapid and complete recovery. 

My thoughts left Keith and his bean harvest when I heard a loud crack, 
followed by a deafening crash. The fierce wind had blown down a large 
tree that had been standing forever and a day in our yard. I looked at 
the fallen tree with a touch of sadness. I could plant another tree and 
I would, but I would never see one of the same size in its place. Then I 
remembered the Tree Swallow. My eyes sought the bird. I looked at the 
branch and saw that the small bird was still hanging on despite the heavy
wind, the thunder, the lightning, the rain and the falling tree. My 
spirit soared because I knew, as one is allowed to know these things, 
that my friend Keith was going to be all right. 

By Al Batt


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