May 11, 2021
As I was reading my paper on Saturday, I was watching the caretaker for the church who owns the property behind us. He often rides his mower the day before services to make sure the area looks nice for worshipers. While the front of the church is on higher ground, this back field is lower and tends to collect water. Prior to the church buying the property the grass often reached one or two feet before the owner would bring out his mower. Now it is done more often.
One of my “other duties as assigned” when I was director of a conference center in Kansas was mowing the grass. I did not have to do this, but I found it relaxing to get on the mower, plug in my headphones, and escape the office by mowing into the evening. Since we had 61 acres, there was always something that needed to be mowed. One area always caused me concern. This was a thin strip of ground situated between a sharp rise and a small creek. Most days this was just tricky, but when the grass was damp it become precarious. I admit, I had to pull the mower out of the creek on two occasions. Maybe it would have been smarter to let someone else ride the mower in this area.
I thought of my experiences when I noticed the caretaker had gotten the mower stuck in the wet mud in the field. He tried for several minutes to first rock the mower and then try to push it out. He finally gave up and got his truck. He pulled the mower free and returned the truck to the parking lot. He came back to the freed mower and went back to mowing the wet patch of field. It did not take more than five minutes before he was stuck again. Apparently, he did not learn from his mistake. He had learned something, however. He immediately went to get his truck, pulled the mower out of the mud, and this time left his truck in the field. This time he was ready in case he got stuck. He jumped back on the mower and tried to complete the job.
Thoughts: As I thought about the caretaker and his mower it struck me how often we only learn what we want to learn. The field was too wet to mow. This was evidenced by his mower getting stuck not once but twice. The obvious learning was the ground was too wet and to wait for another day. Rather than learning the obvious, he first learned he needed to pull the mower out with his truck, and then to leave the truck in the field in case it got stuck again. We sometimes find ourselves in similar situations. The obvious solution for the pandemic was to immediately wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing. Most choose to ignore this obvious learning and instead banked on creation of a vaccine or reaching “herd immunity”. While this solution seems to be working, the cost is 33.5 million cases and 595,000 deaths in the US alone. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.