When we met up with our old friend, John Stoltzfus, he looked exactly the same as he had the first time we had met. A friend of my husband’s, I had meet him several years ago. It was interesting that, despite time, he didn’t age. It was as if the clock had stood still.
He greeted us as though he had known we were coming. Without a moment’s hesitation, he slipped into “catch-up” mode with my husband, asking about shared acquaintances, business, and health. I watched the two interacting and couldn’t help but smile at the true friendship that bound these two men from very different backgrounds.
My husband had confided in me that John was a bachelor. Despite wearing the traditional Amish beard, he had never married. As I watched John, I couldn’t imagine why not. He was an attractive man with a sparkle in his eye and quick wit on his tongue. When my husband teased him about still being single, John teased him right back about having gotten remarried. It was good-natured and light, causing all of us to laugh.
He took us on a walk through the farm, showing us the dogs that he was breeding for sale (and no, he does NOT have a puppy mill but a well run and maintained kennel). We stood by a fence on a hill, watching a one year old Morgan frolic and run. A beautiful horse, indeed, with a short, stubby baby tail and gangly legs that didn’t always keep up with his ideas and energy. But it was the long, low building that he saved for last which impacted me the most.
A pig barn.
I’ve been on farms before. I’ve been on farms all my life. But I have never seen a pig barn before. Not like this one. It was orderly with rows and rows of runs for the pigs. There must have been at least 300-400 pigs in 30 runs. They were large pigs, too. Their ears were the size of my head. They ran when we approached but there really wasn’t anywhere for them to run. The floor was sloped so that the pig manure could drain into a drainage pipe. They had been sent to John 4-5 months prior. He fed them, gave them water, and cleaned the runs on a weekly basis. And, later the next week, those pigs were being picked up and taken to market.
As I stared at the pigs, I felt sad for them. With
a week, I could picture their fate and it ripped at my heart. I’ve seen the videos on youtube.com (and, consequently, stopped eating meat). But, when I commented to John that I felt sad for the pigs, he looked at me and asked, “Why?”
“They’re all going to die.”
He took a deep breath and nodded. “Jah, but we have to eat, don’t we now?”
I nodded in agreement. “But they have never been allowed to be pigs. I think that’s sad.”
He tugged at his grey beard. “Ach vell, guess I never thought of it that way before.”
For a good twenty minutes, we stood in the barn, talking about raising pigs and purpose that we all serve in life. He told me about how smart those pigs are, learning how to yank the water hose down from the ceiling. He seemed both amazed and in awe of their intelligence. “I had to put that hose back up twice just today! No sooner did I fix it than they pulled it back down.”
And, while I looked at those pigs, I realized that he was right. As sad as it was, those pigs would help many people survive. Someone has to raise those pigs and they sure were better off with John Stoltzfus than some place else. If he didn’t raise them, someone else would. Life on a farm is one of purpose. Everything has its place. Everything has a reason. Daylight is not to be wasted, but neither is fellowship with others. God’s creatures are to be respected for what they are as well as what they do.
Point 2 from my journey: Find your purpose, whatever it may be, and respect it.