My youngest son, Jess, entered a tractor restoration contest sponsored by FFA while he was in high school. At first, he had settled on a Farmall H as the project tractor and began to search for a suitable and salvageable unit to purchase. When Grandpa got wind of the project, he offered up the Ford 8N tractor that his father had purchased new in 1950. It had been used by the family ever since - well, almost. Actually, Grandpa told us that a few years earlier, the tractor had started to use so much oil that he decided to park it before it ran out of oil and seized up the engine. It was PERFECT for the project! A tractor with a history (especially a family history) was much more valuable and more exciting to work on than any unknown piece of iron you might find on Ebay. Had we missed visiting with Grandpa about the project, we would never have known that the Ford was in need of restoration.
Jess and I started tearing down the 8N. In no time, we were bitten by the restoration bug. It seemed that the project would take forever, but before we knew it, we had "remanufactured" that little Ford tractor. Jess had to track and document all the hours of labor and every dollar spent on the project. It consumed a lot of man-hours and a lot of tuition money! The little Ford was down, but not out. With some work and TLC, we brought it back to life. Thinking back to the time that we spent together on this restoration, I would not trade the hours shared for anything. While Jess recorded the time we spent in the shop, he did not begin to record all the time spent planning, thinking about, and dreaming of the completed project. The mental part of the job consumed at least as much time as the actual work on the iron. We put a lot of emotional capital into that little tractor!
Recently, I happened onto a daily devotional entitled "Restoration."1 Of course, after all Jess and I went through on restoring the tractor, this title caught my eye. The twist on the title was that it was addressing the restoration of relationships, not some hunk of iron. The article made me think back to a conversation I had with one of our more prominent colleagues a few years back. We were talking about pig disease (what else?) and he mentioned that a particularly obscure occurrence of a respiratory disease in some breeding stock had caused quite a rift between two of our fellow swine veterinarians. He told me that they had such bad feelings towards one another that they would likely never talk to one another again. What a pity!
The point of the devotional is that restoring relationships is a very important part of having them. Since we are all far from perfect, we are prone to mucking things up and letting each other down occasionally. So openness and forgiveness are important parts of our lives. Over the years in practice, I have seen family relationships (brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, and wives) torn apart because of what one said or didn't say to the other. There are cases where brothers farm the same ground and run their cows in the same pastures, but won't speak to each other when they meet in the barnyard. There have been sons who carried a grudge and injured pride to the father's graveside. What could a little restoration effort have hurt?
I have to admit that I have spent a lot more time in my life restoring tractors and "fixing" things than I have spent on restoring broken relationships. Granted, I hope that I have not had many broken relationships in my life, but there may be some that I don't know about. Remember, we would have restored a Farmall if Grandpa hadn't brought his little Ford to our attention. My point is, if you have a broken relationship, make sure you make it known to the other person, or the restoration project may never get started.
1. Purpose Driven Life.com. Devotional archives. Available at http://www.purposedrivenlife.com/devarchive.aspx?ARCHIVEID=97 . Accessed October 23, 2004.