Sitting in a grain truck, ten feet off the ground, I watch the sun set though a bank of storm clouds. Dust drifts through the air, kicked up by two combines moving in tandem across a field of wheat. A feeling of gratitude washes over me, while I simultaneously sense all that we take for granted.
My uncle, cousin, and their three hired hands work their synchronized dance of harvesting wheat, and I have the privilege of looking into their world for a moment. An average family farm on the plains of North Dakota, they grow wheat, soybeans, and canola. Having already already cleared a field to the north, they moved the equipment to the south field, and hope the impending storm continues to move north.
While I ride along, pestering him with questions, my cousin drives the grain truck and collects wheat from the combines as they work their way across the field. From there it is transferred to the waiting semi-truck trailer and hauled back to the farm. Eventually it will make its way to market.
From the outsiders view the process seems easy. The view from the driver’s seat is another story. As the dust flies through the air and I marvel at the computer screen and the size of the tires, I ask my cousin, “Do you maintain all of this equipment too?” He shrugs his shoulders as if to say, of course we do. How else would it get done? “Yep,” he says as he checks the rear camera on the console and sets the GPS to auto-drive.
The machinations of the farm, from preparing food for the workers to maintaining equipment, deciding what to plant, where to plant, when to plant, when to harvest, when to sell. And the thousands of decisions and actions that goes into this one operation swirls through my mind like a movie in fast forward.
And yet, people across the country do this very day. People run businesses that make the materials, that make the things that we need and use every day. It’s easy to forget what goes into a loaf of bread and assume it will be on the shelf.
And we know this is true for everything. When I left the house Saturday morning to drive a thousand miles across the great expanses of Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota to the northwoods of Minnesota with tears leaking out of my eyes, seeking one more embrace, telling my beloved, “I’ll see you soon. I love you,” I took it all for granted. My car, the gas stations, the quality of the road, the beauty of the rolling hills, fields of hay, wheat, sunflowers, grass, open space, even the oil fields were taken for granted.
It’s easy to assume that each of these things will be there when we need them, running in the background of our lives. That the farmers and oil workers, the construction crews and emergency responders will be there when we need them. We take for granted that each day, across our country and our world, people will get up, go to work in the morning, and do their jobs that make the world go round, just as regularly as the sun rises and sets.
Just as easily, it’s easy to take for granted that I will walk back into my home a couple of months from now and feel as if I never left. To believe that my loved one will be waiting for me, and we will pick up where we left off.