“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Ps. 71:9).
Meet “Little Red.” She’s not really red anymore. She’s more of a brownish, rusty color. She came to live on our farm in the 70s. My dad bought her from a logging operation, and she had been used and abused. He thought she’d do fine as a hay raking tractor as that’s not a very demanding job. I saw her around but didn’t pay her much attention until, as an adult, I started helping on the farm. Growing up, I didn’t help in the hay harvesting as that was not a girl’s job, according to my mom. So, in my 30’s, I was formally introduced to this little jewel as I learned to operate a side-delivery hay rake.
She shows the wear and tear of life. First of all, she’s missing her hood. I’m not sure where it went. When you observe her moving head on, you see her front tires doing their own thing. They resemble black circles of gelatin in an earthquake. They shimmy and wiggle as the driver works to overcome the “play” in the steering wheel. Her headlights appear cross-eyed. Just as well since they don’t work anyway. And brakes? Who needs ‘em? I was taught early to either drop the scrape blade when braking is necessary or not to attempt a stop going downhill.
Little Red has a dip-stick that must be tightened down when her oil is checked. This must be done every time she’s used (since she always needs oil). On occasion, she has blown the dipstick out. I’ve been driving along minding my own business when she decides to cover me in a black mist. Yes, it’s black because we just add old, burnt diesel oil to the reservoir…it’s going to leak out anyway.
Getting Little Red started is another matter in itself, and I secretly think she may have an ether addiction. First of all, I have to make sure the battery is charged up. Her glow plugs don’t function properly to warm the engine so it cranks easily. Thus, I have to take the “breather” apart, remove the air filter, and spray a hefty amount of ether in there. If the wind isn’t blowing the right way when she cranks, the black smoke that rolls out hits me in the face.
Despite her flaws, which are many, she purrs along like nobody’s business once we get her rolling. Little Red is always sitting in her shed, waiting to be useful. Sure, the newer tractors carry the bulk of the workload, but we know Red is eager to serve.
Little Red reminds me of myself. I have many flaws, and my body shows the wear and tear of life. My joints need oiling, and my grip is non-existent. My eyesight is poor without glasses, and my brown hair is now gray. Sometimes I have trouble getting started! But like Little Red, I want to be useful. I don’t want my elder years to be about myself. I can still accomplish things that will influence others for good. I want to make a lasting impact.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
We are all at different seasons in our Christian life. Churches today often overlook their senior population, but I’m fortunate to worship in a church that recognizes the gifts and experience people of my generation bring. I’ve been a volunteer choir director for seventeen years, and they haven’t put me out to pasture yet. Recently I began serving with “Hope for the Hungry.” Both are rewarding and bring me joy. My husband, at age 65, discovered a passion for working with children at church. I would never have imagined that when we were younger.
We all have gifts to serve. They may look differently in our older years but they are not diminished. Little Red is as valuable to life on the farm today as she was in the 1970s. I hope to follow in her wobbly tire marks.
In addition to working on the farm, Ellen cares for her hubby of 46 years, bosses her sons and daughter-in-law (or tries to), loves on her grandchildren and tries to keep up with her 89 year-old mother. She worked as a nurse in cardiology before becoming a full-time wife/mother. She has also volunteered as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate).