I was 15 years old when I hauled hay for the first time. Growing up in south Texas, hauling hay was a summer tradition, perhaps even a rite of passage into manhood.
Here’s how it would work: a group of us able-bodied teenage boys would walk the field alongside a pickup truck pulling a flatbed trailer. The truck was typically driven by the rancher.
Two or three of us boys would toss the 40-pound bundles up onto the flatbed while another would stack the square bales as tightly and high as possible. When the trailer was full, we’d make a trip to the barn and unload.
Then, we’d return and repeat the process until every bale was rescued from the hot, dusty field. We were each paid a nickel per bale.
Hard work. Awful pay.
I remember that first summer I joined three of my friends to haul hay. We worked for hours in the blistering Texas heat, clearing the field of every single bale. We tied down the last load, climbed into the rickety truck and drove all the way to the barn, where we unloaded them for safe storage.
Mr. Freeman would pull the hay from his barn during the winter to feed his cattle. When the flatbed was unloaded and the hay was stacked, all of us dust-covered, worn-out boys collapsed into the crunchy straw mass. Exhausted, but with a sense of accomplishment.
Or so we thought.
Just as we were exhaling and basking in our success, we could hear Mr. Freeman’s worn cowboy boots shuffling through the stray straw on the barn floor. In his gruff, Texas accent, he bellowed,
“Now let’s go do the other field.”
“There’s more hay to haul, boys. And it’s not gonna haul itself.”
Fast forward some 30 years later. My career centers on rescuing children from poverty. Each day, the organization I work for is in the fields (or in this case, 26 different countries) changing the lives of children who otherwise have very little opportunity in the world.
Through partnership with local churches in these countries, we feed, clothe, educate over one million kids…and teach them about the love of their Creator.
We are, in a sense, hauling hay…rescuing these kids from the barren fields, bringing them to a safe environment so they aren’t spoiled by the hard, harsh winters of life.
And we’ve made progress.
Last month, UNICEF announced that the number of children dying from preventable diseases around the world has dropped dramatically.
Just ten years ago, we used to say over 30,000 kids die everyday from things like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. Then it dropped to 21,000. Now, we’re told the number is around 19,000. Remarkable progress.
But there’s more hay to haul.
And if we spend too long basking in this success, stretching out in the barn, we will miss the other fields. I am proud of what Compassion International — and other organizations — who join us in this fight has accomplished.
But we must keep up the good work. Our sponsors must commit to driving the truck. Our workers and staff must commit to working the field. Our church partners must continue to provide safe havens.
Mr. Freeman was right. There is more hay to haul.
Wednesday is World Poverty Day. And, if we each play our role, then maybe next year, on World Poverty Day, we will have even better numbers…more progress to report.
Until every bale is rescued.
Farmer photo used courtesy of Becky McCray, Small Biz Survival.