Dad was plowing a fifteen-acre piece of land. He signaled me to his tractor. My horse responded to the bump of my boot heels and started a gallop. Dad assigned me a small errand back at the house.
In TV Westerns famous cowboys labeled their horses imaginative names like Trigger and Silver and Scout. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto mounted their amazing steeds and went after the bad guys. When Dad brought our fifteen-year-old gelding to the farm, we had little choice but to stick with the horse’s original name. Bill.
Minutes after leaving my dad I lay writhing, half-delirious in our barnyard lot. I called out, distress in my voice. And pain. My leg felt it was on fire.
Bill had gathered himself from the fall and stood wide-eyed nearby. He was perhaps reviewing in some horse-like way the scary experience of moments ago. A momentary quiet settled over me – my fourteen-year-old mind barely in touch with my surroundings.
In a way that seemed somehow comforting, my nose took in the sharp, raw smell of cow manure. Another burning pain shot through the leg. My shouts broke the calm. Moments later I was hauled into a pair of rescuing arms.
My brother-in-law, ten years my senior, was at our farm. He ran toward the sound of my screams. Inspecting me and ruling out any broken bones, he gathered me up. Soon my grubby frame, smelling of horse sweat and trampled hay, lay on the green couch in our living room. I had survived. I never learned whether the length of rope my dad sent me to fetch made it to him. I accepted that simply surviving could, on this day, count for something.
Counting for something. The phrase speaks to a peculiar drive inside us – regardless our limp. Counting for something seems to run in the life blood of people everywhere, like a part of a spinal cord that has to be in place for the thing to work.
When I review my life to the present it’s a patchwork. I’ve passed through bare survivals and radical recoveries. I’ve let curiosity lead me into places both delightful and dreadful. I have been overtaken by joys and overwhelmed by sadness.
On the day at the farm I had been on a mission, though not a spectacular one. I hadn’t suited up in space gear to be launched toward the moon. Neither had I donned wet suit and fins to conquer the English Channel. Still the task given me was one that needed to be acted on. By doing so – faithfully – I could enjoy something of actual worth. Beyond mere usefulness, something with meaning.
Being present for the benefit of another human being – in this instance, my dad – this held meaning. It counted.
Thankfully not all of life’s happenings are grave, or profound. Some are, in fact, profoundly funny. I am thankful for this. Still, most lives are visited by scraps of drama and snippets of mystery. An assortment of insights and even some hints at wisdom are in such places. For the finding. Sometimes all that’s required is some reflection.
It is wonderfully true after all. Everyone counts for something.
©2015 Jerry Lout