|Prop'em up on
by Jep Hostetler
Dad and Mother thought a farm would give their seven children, several foster
children, and a recovering alcoholic or two the space they needed. I do not imagine we
had more than 100 acres on any of the farms where we lived. The idea behind the
"farm life" was to give us five boys something constructive to do. So we spent our
growing-up years on the rented Miller farm, the Hooley farm, and Yoder farms. We did
sow and harvest crops, and maintain a very large garden. Large gardens meant that
there would be a very busy time during the summer, canning vegetables and fruit.
The fruits of our labor were to be shared, particularly with folks who came to dinner.
The meal was usually a Sunday noon meal, right after church. We invited a variety of
folks to join us for stew, fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, and a few vegetables that
I still have a hard time identifying.
The tradition has been carried on into my own adult life. We believe that hospitality is
one of the best gifts one can give to strangers and friends alike.
Our interaction with prison persons, especially incarcerated men, grew out of our
interest in those for whom life was not so fortunate. One such person was Henry.
Henry was a tall, slender man who had been in jail for eight years by the time we met
him. He was the first African-American man our daughters had ever met. Often Henry's
mother, Annie, would come to our house for the evening meal, now appropriately
called "dinner." We enjoyed her company, and we enjoyed her sweet-potato pie.
Over dinner one evening, Annie asked if she could say the blessing. Of course! Annie
began, "Dear Lord, when we all get to heaven it will be all howdy howdies, and no
good-byes. Thank you Jesus!" Her prayer went on, as she gently rocked forward and
backward, blessing the food, the relatives, the President, world leaders, the local
churches and their pastors and especially her sick friends, for whom she requested,
"And dear Lord, be with all my sick friends, just prop 'em up on the leanin' side." I
smiled inside, delighting in the beauty of this prayer.
These words will forever be in my memory bank: "just prop 'em up on the leanin' side."
Sometimes we tend to want the world at our disposal and our pleas and supplications
to God are grand and complete. We want everything fixed, cured, better, and just plain
well. Annie's humble request says it best: "I'm not asking a whole lot here Lord, and I
don't really want to be presumptuous, so a 'prop up' would do just fine for now, thank