Look at familiar stories in new ways

It is the most wonderful time of the year. The cold snap in the air, snow on the ground, the majority of humans are happy, most children’s eyes are filled with wonder, and there seems to be a festivity in the air that is hard to pinpoint.

It is the time of year when stories of good deeds abound, and Santa is watching every move that children make. It is a time for families and friends to gather ’round to share stories from the past year and beyond.

Recently, I was discussing with my high school class various creation stories throughout the world. We examined creation stories from most cultures, religions and countries ranging from the Christian Bible to Egypt, China, Greece, Hawaii and Mesopotamia, and from the Norse to the Maori. It struck my students deeply that all of these stories had similar elements and, in some cases, similar stories. It was a learning moment that would make any teacher proud.

However, this learning was not only taking place in my students but in their teacher as well. It made me begin thinking about all the stories I had heard and taken for granted throughout the years.

I started thinking about how many times I heard my grandpa, Joe, tell the legend of how his dad came to America. Supposedly the tale went that he had stolen away on a horse boat and had been kicked on the journey over, leaving a permanent mark on his leg.

Or how could a listener forget the story about how his parents met and fell in love? Great-Grandpa John worked for the American Bridge Company in  Ambridge, Pa., and Great-Grandma Sophie worked as a maid in a home. John would walk by every day and Sophie would be outside working and each day he would ask her for a date.

Finally, after weeks of him asking, she said yes. Then after the wedding, John developed, according to Sophie, a little too much love of beer. So she promised to move them to a town with no bars.

With two daughters and one on the way, Sophie loaded up the family and brought them to the farm in the middle of Mosquito Lake. Flash forward several years and the story of the Army Corps of Engineers coming in on Christmas morning to tell my grandpa and his family to leave before evening never failed to make any listeners blood boil.

However, even with all these stories, I had never stopped to think about the details, the nuances, the things that make these stories special. It occurred to me that this was also true about the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth. Belief or no, true or false, I had never thought about the details.

I had always pictured the story taking place in a barn — picture a big, red, wooden building full of straw with animals surrounding the family. Yet, knowing what we know about the time, that would not have been the case. Homes in the Middle East during that time often contained a room on the first floor where families kept their livestock at night to keep them safe from predators.

Jesus, if you are a believer, was born in the home of a farmer.

If we stop and think about the details for a moment, stories, even ones we have heard repeatedly, take on a new meaning. If Jesus was born in the home of a farmer, then it explains so much about how he came to perform some of his acts. Some of the power to feed, clothe and provide shelter today fall into the hands of farmers in the U.S. and abroad.

This power is not something that farmers take lightly or flippantly. Talk to any farmer today and they will mention their concerns about rising costs, water pollution, pesticides, global warming, weather, the pressure to feed 7.53 billion people, and a wide variety of issues that might surprise you.

So in this time of merriment and joy, childlike wonder and happiness, take a moment to say a little prayer or wish a local farmer some holiday cheer. Even better, stop for a moment and listen to a tale. Ask about the state of local agriculture, prices and costs, imports and exports, or the political climate.

And while the words that are spoken are important, listen to what is not said, think about the details. After all, the season that we celebrate at this very time is only possible because a farmer opened his home to a weary traveler and his very pregnant fiancee in their time of need.

Submitted by Christen Clemson

Christen is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau who has completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.