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Living a Generous Life

Twenty years ago, Paul and I lived in Fargo, ND. Twenty years ago, widespread mobile phone usage did not exist.

I took the call at work. Our neighbor Wallace was watching the farm while my parents were out of state on a much-deserved vacation. My dad's steers had broken the fence and had gotten out. Wallace had not been able to locate the cattle. I flew into action. I told my boss I was leaving work immediately and wouldn’t be in the next day. I updated Paul, threw together a bag, and drove the two hours from Fargo to the family farm.

By the time I arrived at the farm, the October sun was low in the sky. I had no idea even where to start looking for the lost cattle. Many fields were still full of corn and sunflowers waiting to be harvested. I called my sister Bridgett and told her to start calling neighbors that might be able to help out.

With the help of at least four different farmers and ranchers, we located the cattle and started chasing them back to the farm. It took many people, a lot of our collective time, and even some maneuvering the animals across highway traffic, but we got the steers within a half-mile south of the farm. Then we came to a hard stop. It was very dark and we couldn’t get to them in the middle of the sunflower field.

The next morning, one of the neighbors came back to help me drive the cattle home. Since the only thing constant is change, by daybreak the cattle had wandered to the east of the farm. We were able to locate them in the cold morning sunshine and get them home. I spent the rest of the day caring for the cattle and fixing the fence.

Looking back, it’s clear to me that those two days were full of vertical and horizontal conversations. The vertical moments were my prayers to God, right along with help and answers from God back to me. The horizontal moments were all spent with the neighbors, in action.

I spent those two days stewarding the property surrounding my family's farm and caring for the animals once back home. I had watched and learned what to do from a young age. I knew exactly how chase cattle, fix the fence, and do valuable work with and for the family I loved. I dropped everything to help until the job was finished because I knew how to do all this. Those acts of stewardship were put in front of me, for me to contribute toward.

Working with the neighbors, well, that required a lot of giving and generosity from them. They sacrificed their comfy easy chair evening for a rough ride across harvested fields, going up and down ditches and chasing cattle in the dark. They delayed their own morning chore time with their herds to help me get the cattle that last stretch to home. I gratefully received the gifts of their time and abilities.

This story is full of surrender, sacrifice, and hard choices. Decisions were made to drop everything and rearrange evening plans, to knowingly give away time and vehicle wear and tear on a random drive out in the country in the dark, to help one another even though every next step was a leap of faith. The end result? A positive outcome that displayed the value of community and a love of neighbors.

Living a generous life is more than just the vocabulary words and definitions of stewardship, giving, and generosity. Living a generous life is a building on your everyday actions, living out your core values, supporting causes that provide substance to others, figuring out the next best step when the path forward isn’talways clear. Living a generous life is you being blessed enough to be a blessingto others.

Tanya Trana
Church Council President

Tags: Weekly Word