Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Scrooge On The Farm

December 18, 2006

Ebenezer VanderGloom ran his operation like clockwork. His financial statement could have been framed at the bank. You'd have never known it. The atmosphere he generated was a mixture of his mother's funeral and the last minutes of the Titanic.

He complained vociferously about his latest troubles. Everything that was wrong was like a personal affront. He didn't deserve ice storms and blizzards, untimely rains, machinery breakdowns, drought, greedy neighbors, the high costs of parts, or mistakes by others.

For years he railed against his enemies, real or imagined. Prices, banks, governmental regulations, globalization, the Chicago Board of Trade, multinational corporations - they all received his wrath.

None were spared, including his sons. Especially his sons. He was unbearable and didn't know it. He had a quick temper and a sharp tongue. He seldom gave praise or recognition. Nothing was ever good enough. Despite that, his biggest dream in life was to pass on the farm to his sons.

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer had a dream. He dreamed the ghost of his late father appeared to him. Ebenezer was shown a vision of grown sons plying their trade in faraway cities.

"I don't understand," anguished Ebenezer. "There is such a great opportunity here."

"You've made the same mistakes with them I made with you," replied his father. "I was so bogged down with day-to-day problems that I never explained the big picture. I always thought I was losing the battle when I was winning.

"I enjoyed being independent, seeing things grow, being out here with your mother. I felt the country was the best place to raise kids. The good and the bad years evened themselves out. It was a pretty good life, really. The only trouble was, I never told you those things."

"Is it too late? Is there anything I can do?" cried Ebenezer.

"Ebenezer, you can stop talking like you are a victim when you are not a victim. Sure, there is unfairness in life. You don't control everything. But you do hold enough cards to make it go. Look around you. You're doing it.

"Stop expecting everything to be perfect. If you expect everything to be perfect, you'll take all the joy out of life. You are making yourself miserable. That's what your boys see - a father who looks, talks and acts like he is miserable."

"But it's not true, I love it! Can't you see that?" demanded Ebenezer.

"Ebenezer, what your sons see is a worried, frustrated, angry and almost defeated man. Share your enthusiasm! Share your dreams! Your love and enthusiasm for farming should radiate for everyone to see. If you don't feel that way, get out along with your sons. Life is too short to spend it on something you don't enjoy."

"No! No! No! I love it here! Don't you understand? How can I make my sons understand that…before it is too late?" shrieked Ebenezer.

"Life is pretty good just as it is. Stop living for tomorrow and enjoy something about today. Stop staring at the muck and look at the sunset. That is what you want your sons to see."

"One more thing. With the boys, use appreciation, recognition and a lot of patience. You may not believe this but praise and appreciation are almost better than money. Your boys want your approval and need to hear it from your mouth."

"Let them make mistakes and then gently instruct them. Watch your tone of voice. Listen to them and their ideas."

"Make it fun for them to be around you. Make sure they know that they are more important than the farm. Go to their activities. Make it easy for them to be around their friends. Don't push them so hard that they see the farm as the enemy. They'll have a whole lifetime to farm if that's what they choose to do.

"What your boys will remember is the light-hearted fun and laughter, your sense of humor and the good times they had growing up. How much of that do they hear on your place?"

"Not much. It’s been pretty grim around here."

"Ebenezer, lighten up. Don’t sweat the small stuff. By the way, it is all small stuff. I'm glad I had a chance to tell you this. I owed it to you. Remember, stop talking like a victim when you are not a victim. You'll be OK."

That Christmas morning, Ebenezer gathered his family together. He had a big smile on his face. It was going to be a good Christmas after all.