A year ago Clarence and Wendy Markus were abruptly awakened in the night to discover that 30 years of their family’s hard work was burning to the ground. (Read more: Your Barn is on Fire!) A thousand times over the past year, Clarence has shared with everyone his unique perspective on that fateful night….”It’s just stuff”. Despite the loss and upheaval to their lives, Clarence and the entire Markus family have come to see something that could have defeated them has become a blessing. They are extremely appreciative of the outpouring of support from the dairy community around the world. As members of the dairy industry, we all know that the dairy community is the greatest. (Read more: Why the Dairy Community is the Greatest in the World….) Nevertheless, sometimes it is harder to remember and accept Clarence’s message that, “It’s just stuff.”
There are those who might take Clarence’s comments lightly, while agreeing with the observation “They’re just cows” or “It’s just a barn.” They may too quickly overlook the amount of hard physical work, the time spent, the late nights or the costs involved for “just a cow” and the memories that “just a barn” hold for generations of a dairy farmer’s family. For families like the Markus’s, dairy farming is more than just an occupation. It is more than a career. It is a way of life. Therefore, when the cows are lost, and the barns are destroyed, it is like getting laid off, fired or downsized from your chosen career and having your place of work completely eradicated.. Seeing all that was lost in this horrific fire, I don’t take Clarence’s words, “It’s just stuff” lightly. And neither does he or his family. What he is sincerely highlighting is the fact that everyone was safe. Clarence and his wife Wendy were not harmed in the fire. Their four kids, spouses and many grandchildren are all safe. They are able to appreciate that as a blessing especially when it was combined with the amazing support of the many community members from around the world who have reached out to them.
I contrast this story with the tragic one of Patricia Stiles and Reese Burdette. (Read more: Patricia Stiles –Dairy Farmer, Grandmother, Hero, Fighting for Her Life!) They too were awakened in the night to a devastating fire. However, unlike Clarence and Wendy, their fire was not in the barn, but rather in the house. Unlike the Markus family who were able to remain safe, Patricia and her husband Mike had their two young grandchildren, Reese and Brinkley, in the house and they had to help them escape the blaze. Tragically for Patricia and Reese, they did not make it out unharmed. Both suffered massive smoke inhalation and burns to most of their bodies. While Patricia is now out of the hospital, after a tough battle to regain her health, Reese still finds herself battling in hospital.
It is at a time like this that you can appreciate Clarence’s perspective on “stuff” as compared to family health, life and safety. . While there are large differences in the economic cost of the Markvale fire and the Waverly one, all of us can agree that , the damage to the health of our hero Patricia and her sweet granddaughter Reese far outweigh the losses of “stuff”. .
You see, ultimately the old stuff lost in the fire can be replaced by new stuff. This was the case on display yesterday as Markvale opened their doors to their new facility. However, instead of the day being about the fancy new barns, it was about the community that supported them and made it possible. It was about giving heartfelt thanks for how fortunate they were that everyone was safe and that they are members of such a caring community.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Fire has a way of destroying the old and making room for the new. A forest fire clears the underbrush and dead trees and makes room for the new to grow and thrive. This is exactly the way the Markus family sees it as each of their three sons will continue on as dairy farmers and members of this great fraternity. Fire can also be devastating, as the Burdette and Stiles families have been experiencing. All of these families have certainly been reminded of the lesson that “it’s just stuff.” Stuff can be replaced. However being a member of this great community and having your health is irreplaceable and far more important than just stuff.