Thick is bloodier than water… November 8, 2012

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Michael won.

I was furious. It wasn’t supposed to happen. My arrogance and stupidity got together and planned a pity party with no refreshments. I didn’t understand. I had won junior class president the year before, only challenged by one girl who received two votes–her own and that of her twin sister. I was supposed to be a shoo-in.

But before we elected our senior class officers, Michael decided at the last minute to throw his hat in the ring, and he got all of his buddies together from the Future Farmers of America (the FFA) to support him, boosting him on their shoulders to victory. This was made possible because I lived in a rural community where the FFA was the largest club in the school.

As painful as it was to lose to Michael, even more aggravating was the discovery that my friend, Howard, had gone behind my back and voted for my opponent. Howard explained to me that he felt compelled to do so because he, too, was a farmer, and the pressure from the club to get behind Michael was more than he could resist.

I was so pissed off. Howard and I were friends. Now granted, we hadn’t tilled the soil together or considered the best way to herd cows, but we had done many more important human things which should have engaged his loyalty in my direction.

For instance, we sang in a quartet together. That means there were days of rehearsal, little road trips, late-night talks about girls and how parts worked, giggling, crying…and oh, speaking of crying, I was there with Howard when he discovered that his girlfriend, Jackie, was dating Ben behind his back. (By the way, another farmer.) Actually, Howard was not sure that Jackie was being a two-timer, so one night the two of us went out in his 1958 Chevy coupe and found Ben and Jackie, parked in Lover’s Lane, necking away, with Ben plowing where Howard had already planted crops. Howard was devastated. I stayed up with him all night, talking, crying and coming to the early morning decision that Jackie was just no good.

So you see, we had history. We were friends. And honestly, sometimes being a friend is much stronger than being a relative, especially a farmer. I just didn’t understand.

Howard knew I was angry. I stayed that way for at least a month. We would talk, but I made sure that he was aware that out of revenge, I was withholding some of the better stories that I could have been sharing. Actually, within a couple of weeks, I was glad that I wasn’t president of the class. Being vice-president meant I didn’t have the responsibility, but still got out of class, still got the respect of students and teachers, but Michael was left to deal with the sticky messes. But I didn’t tell Howard that’s how I felt. No, Howard was on my crap list. And it really wasn’t a list–just Howard’s name, signed at the bottom.

Finally one day, Howard took me aside and tried to explain. He said, “You know, blood is thicker than water.”

I just stared at him. “Is there a bloodline of farmers? And what’s that got to do with anything?”

But in a moment of pity I looked into his eyes and realized that Howard was afraid. And whenever we’re afraid, we go back to patterns of behavior ingrained in us long before we are able to resist. After all, even if your parents were abusive, they were still the first ones to put a bottle in your mouth and tell you about Santa Claus. It’s hard to forget that. And if your parents are farmers and you’re a member of FFA, it makes you feel like you’re betraying your kin if you vote for your buddy instead of your barn-mate.

I didn’t exactly forgive him, but I realized he was thick. Emotion, truth, gentleness, loyalty and faithfulness were unable to get through a crusty hide of tradition and false respect.

We eventually made up. If I recall, it had something to do with him meeting a new girl, who also cheated on him–so we had to go out together and chase down the latest infidelity. (For some reason Howard had very poor success in maintaining the ongoing affection of loyal girlfriends.)

I remember this story because I always want to be reminded that not all blessing comes from my family tree. Not all wisdom comes from my little village. And not all growth can be spawned from my little garden patch of understanding.

I need newness of life–and that includes new people with new ideas, new faces and new ways that may at first seem contrary to me, but in the long run, expand my heart and make me a better human.

Thick is what bloodies the waters.

Dear God, help me not to be thick-headed, building concrete around my brain.

Heavenly Father, help me not to be thick-gutted, padding the fat around my waist with additional reinforcements.

And Almighty Creator, keep me from being thick-hearted, protecting my emotions from the experiences that will make me more understanding instead of so doggone sure of myself.

I didn’t get to be senior class president. Part of it was because a dear cohort chose a farmer over a friend. But what I learned is that God always allows us to grow, even from our disappointments, as long as we don’t get so thick that He can’t reach our insides.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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