Just as you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, it takes more eggs to make an egg-white omelet if you get a double-yolk.
Perhaps I’ve lived a sheltered life, but for the first time I can remember, I cracked open an egg last week and found a double-yolk. This seemed odd to me: I had bought large eggs. Surely you wouldn’t get a double-yolk unless you purchased extra-large or jumbo-sized eggs? But I was busy making my omelet, so I forgot the conundrum and got on with the task at hand.
The next day, I recalled a scene from the TV series “All Creatures Great and Small.” Siegfried Farnon tells a farmer he’d like to purchase a dozen eggs. After he tends to the man’s sick ducks, he returns to his car, where the farmer has left eggs for him. Siegfried counts them up, and says, “I’m sorry, but I wanted a dozen eggs.” When the farmer assures him that he’s fulfilled the veterinarian’s request, Siegfried insists that he’s only received eleven. The farmer’s reply? “I’m tellin’ you, mister: one of them eggs is double-yolked.”
Siegfried’s eyebrows raise, but he pays the farmer for a dozen eggs and drives away.
I’ve watched that episode several times over the years, but only now does it strike me as strange. How could the farmer know that one of his eggs was double-yolked? Could he tell by the egg’s shape? Its size? Had he determined that his hens produced a double-yolk with every eleven eggs? And why would he count an egg with a double-yolk as two eggs? On a subsequent visit to the farm, Siegfried found that the ducks’ condition had worsened. Then he noticed that the bottle of medicine he had sold the farmer contained many more pills than it should have.
Sometimes we can be too cheap for our good. This is a recurring theme in the series, as farmers routinely plead poverty and furiously question the charges on the veterinary bills. And there are other disagreeable qualities that even the most jovial and agreeable farmers display at times. But one thing shines through each show: Siegfried Farnon and James Herriot love and admire the farmers. To these country vets, the Dales farmers are some of the best people on Earth.
Awhile back, it struck me that one person I remembered negatively had made quite a positive influence in my life. During my teen years, I regarded him as a counselor, a guide, and a friend. True, he did a few things that annoyed me. His personal journey led him to criticize some of my views and life choices. At times he judged me harshly, and I resented his punishment. But overall, his kindnesses outnumbered these minor faults. All he had done to help me outweighed the injustices he had perpetrated upon me. Moments of callousness could not obliterate his years of concern and selfless service.
I sent him a card, thanking him for all he had done. I told him how the seeds he had planted in my life were still growing today. I let him know that I still remembered him fondly. And I wished him well. In due course, I received a reply. He told me how much helping me had meant to him. He told me he still looked back on our time together with fondness. And he mentioned how something would occasionally remind him of one of our many discussions.
Perhaps this particular Dales farmer in this episode was always mean and tight-fisted. But he was part of a group of people that Siegfried Farnon and James Herriot loved, admired, and tirelessly served. I imagine even Mr. Double-Yolk had a few good qualities that the episode failed to show.
Why is it we tend to remember the injustices we’ve suffered more than the kindnesses we’ve received? How is it that a thousand kindnesses can be blotted out by a single, unthinking act? Why must we judge others harshly for not reacting to a situation like we would, or adopting viewpoints different from our own? Finding that double-yolk the other day reminds me that even if I find one aspect of a friend’s character irritating (such as the farmer’s cheapness), more than likely he possesses many admirable qualities. I should be big enough to overlook the former and focus upon the latter.
Why do I find this so difficult? How can I change myself, reform my thinking, so that I can better emulate the forgiveness and generosity I admire in others. The light shines so brightly upon the path I should follow. Yet walking along it never grows easier.
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