Tis the gift to be simple
Tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
Till by turning, turning we come round right
Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return
Tis the gift to be taught and the gift to learn
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say
Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be
Tis the gift to think of others, not to only think of “me”
And when we hear what others really think and really feel
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real
“Simple Gifts” was a Shaker work song written by Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr in 1848. The Shakers were a charismatic offshoot of the Quakers. Among other things, they were known for their work ethic, frugality, integrity, and the way they embraced innovative agricultural techniques.
While we certainly weren’t the Von Trapps, (please watch The Sound of Music if you don’t know this reference) singing was, and is, a part of our family heritage – from Grandma rocking us on the porch swing singing “I See the Moon,” “You are my Sunshine,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” or riding quads around the ranch singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” at the top of our lungs, or our parents getting all 12 of us cousins in matching plaid outfits to sing in front of church at Christmas, to Uncle Brent’s girls still singing as a quartet at birthdays and funerals. “Simple Gifts” is one I remember singing in rounds – one person starting in on the first few lines, then the next one joining in, layering the tune’s melody.
The song itself is such a beautiful reflection on the good things in life: freedom, to not think too highly of yourself, but to be able to be proud of a hard day’s work, the joy of having a job well done, to always be ready to learn something new from those around us, to have real, loving relationships – sharing in our sadness and trials as well as our joys and triumphs, and to think of others before ourselves.
My family members and I are often faced with different impressions when people find out we are farmers, two of which are more prominently asked: some people ask if it makes us proud that we are ‘feeding the world’ and others ask why we would do such menial labor, as if it was beneath us because many of us have college educations. For me, both of those views miss the heart of what we do. Yes, it does give us pleasure that people all over the world are able to enjoy the fruit that we have grown, but the true passion for farming that I see in my family lies in a job well done. Of facing the challenges that arise each day with integrity, ingenuity, and an innovative spirit. It is my dad visiting with “his guys,” asking about their families, jumping in along side them to get things done, my brothers digging trenches and propping trees, and celebrating the end of harvest with a big BBQ for the crews. It is the respect and relationships between everyone involved: the field workers, packing shed crews, custodians, farm labor contractors, mechanics, sales team, drivers, managers, accountants, and more. It is the drive to figure out new ways of doing things, find new varieties, and question why we do things the way we do. It is all of these things and so much more, but it boils down to the simple gifts the Lord gives us every day.