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The Unexpected Life: Lessons from the grape vineyard


remain on the e-mail list for my ward in California, even while I am here in

Utah eight months of the year. Recently I received this e-mail sent to the

members of the ward: "We

invite all able-bodied YM/YW and adult brethren and sisters to join

with us for this Saturday's vineyard assignment. We have much to do:

train new vines, pruning & tying, rake/remove weeds from berms,

repair broken posts, etc. Many hands make light work. We hope to see

you Saturday. Thank you!"

I smiled, cringed, felt relief and pride all at the same time when I read this e-mail; it brought back so many memories.


the San Joaquin Valley, the LDS Church's welfare farm is

vineyards/grape/raisins. While I was growing up, every Labor Day

weekend, we all were asked to go to the vineyard to take care of the

grapes. Usually, just the men were asked to return later in the year

to roll the grapes and to prune and bind the vines, whereas now it

looks like everyone from teen up is asked to help throughout the year.


a doubt, going to the vineyard was my least favorite thing to do as a

child; I dreaded it more than anything in the world! I would have been

happy to stay home and do dishes, mow lawns, clean out the dog kennels,

weed the yard, or anything else you could think of. I just really

hated getting up so early, being in so much dust, dirt and heat,

bending over all day laying down papers and then continually emptying

the pans of grapes that the adults would fill, on to those papers; this

would go on for hours or in my mind forever. I just hated it!


remember begging, pleading and praying that I wouldn't have to go to

the vineyard on those Saturdays at 6 a.m. Even with a year in

between each trip to the vineyard, my senses were never dulled to the

pain and misery, nor was my heart softened. I tried everything to get

out of it, and yet I knew that I didn't have a choice; my parents were

making me go.


years later with a little perspective, and some character gained by the experience, I sat here reading that e-mail, hoping and praying that

each of those parents go to the vineyard and "make" their kids go, too.

I wanted to e-mail each and every one of them and say, "I did it, and I

will be eternally grateful for parents who looked past my begging and

pleading and saw the bigger picture and made me go."


found myself wanting to advise them not to rob their kids of the

character they would gain, the sense of pride they would earn, the

appreciation they would have, and the lesson of doing things that you

don't want to do; all qualities that would serve them well later in



the other hand, I knew many of those families and the mentality that

is out in the "mission field," and I knew that most of them would be

there. When the brethren ask you to serve, you serve. In fact, just

this past Labor Day I spoke to my parents, who had returned from the

vineyard. Well in to their 70s, they are no longer nestled under the

vines cutting the grapes, but still had assignments to count heads or

rows, or something helpful.


are things in life that we just don't want to do. Every job has

aspects of it that are less than desirable. There are callings in the

church that leave us wishing we were serving in a different capacity or

with different people. We have daily requirements or jobs that are

inconvenient, irritating or hard. Swallowing the pill of "I don't

want to" gets a lot easier as we get older, if we were trained while we

were young.


principle carries over in to discipleship as well. In the gospel we

all have commandments that are much easier to follow than others.

There are those who would love to be at that grape vineyard, but are

not so keen on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Many would love to teach

a lesson, but don't care to do their home teaching. The list goes on,

there are just things that we don't want to do. And yet, we do them

anyway, simply because we love our Heavenly Father, and want to show it

by serving him and his children.


would be lying if I said that I wish I was in California right now to go to the

vineyard, like I said I still cringe a bit at the thought of it. But

not even the cringe could keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks as

I was filled with gratitude for the fibers of strength and obedience

that were woven within me as a child as I learned to do things that I

didn't want to do.


grateful I am for the experience I received at the vineyard, it has become

one of my proudest memories and one of my greatest blessings.