For several years, there has been a list that has been passed around the internet with the title, “Advice from An Old Farmer.” The list contains lessons of life that apply to everyone. I did some research to see if I could find out who the original author was, but I was unable to identify who it was.
I’m going to provide you with the list and then I have some observations about a couple of the items on the list. Here’s the list:
■ Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
■ Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.
■ Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
■ A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
■ Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled.
■ Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
■ Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
■ Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
■ It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
■ You cannot unsay a cruel word.
■ Every path has a few puddles.
■ When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
■ The best sermons are lived, not preached.
■ Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
■ Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
■ Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
■ Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
■ Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.
■ Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
■ If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
■ Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
■ The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
■ Always drink upstream from the herd.
■ Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
■ Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
■ If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
■ Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.
This is actually a pretty good list of lessons to live by. One of the lessons on the list that I liked was, “Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.” This is a cleverly written piece of advice because it has an element of revenge built into it. It implies that people who forgive others will experience a great sense of satisfaction and pleasure because their forgiveness will mess up their enemies’ heads.
For those of us who were brought up as Christians, we were taught that God expects us to unconditionally forgive our enemies. We’re supposed to forgive them without wanting anything in return. But because of our fallen human nature, most of us would be very pleased if our forgiveness messed up the heads of our enemies.
Jesus Christ did not forgive His enemies because he thought that it would mess up their heads. He forgave them because He loved them and He wanted to open the gates of Heaven so if they chose to reform their lives, they would be allowed to enter into His kingdom.
The other lesson that caught my attention was, “The best sermons are lived, not preached.”
When my three oldest daughters — Anna, Maria, and Laura — were teenagers, they got involved in community theater. In one of the first plays that they participated in, they became good friends with one of the girls in the play. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call her “Julia.”
After the play was finished, Julia told my daughters that she wanted to become a Catholic. I think that Julia was influenced by my daughters because of their love for each other, their kindness toward others, and their sense of humor. My daughters put Julia in touch with Fr. Michael Driscoll, who helped prepare her for her entrance into the Catholic Church.
When the day came for Julia’s baptism, my wife and I, along with all seven of our children, attended the baptism. Other than my memory of being present in the church with Julia, my family, and Fr. Driscoll, the only other thing that I remember was something that Fr. Driscoll said before he baptized Julia. Here’s a summary of what he said:
I’ve never met a person who has converted to the Catholic faith because of one of my sermons. People embrace the Catholic faith because of the love, kindness, and influence of other people. They see something in the Catholic person that they don’t have — something that they lack and desire with all their heart. It can be the love and kindness of the Catholic person, the enthusiasm that the person has about the Catholic faith, or it can simply be because of the person’s love of God. Love, kindness, and enthusiasm are contagious, especially when it’s accompanied by the grace of God.
When I read the lesson of the old farmer that “the best sermons are lived, not preached,” I thought about what Father Driscoll told me and my family on the day that he baptized Julia.
We must remember that people are always watching us, and that God expects us be Christ-like in everything that we say and do.