Finding Strength Through Weakness

Farmer and Leader Joan Ruskamp

After foot surgery, farmer Joan Ruskamp became dependent on other people. And as it turns out, that was okay.

My husband, Steve, and I own a feedlot in Dodge, Nebraska. My main responsibility on the farm is overseeing the health of our 2,500 head of cattle. In those responsibilities, I definitely lean on my left foot more often to balance. That led to ankle pain that lasted almost a year. I was diagnosed with tarsal tunnel syndrome. I went in for surgery over the 2021 holiday season to treat it. 

Surgery meant that I would not be able to walk for weeks. The loss of something as important as walking taught me something invaluable. 

I became dependent on other people. As it turns out, that was okay. I didn’t become less because I became weak. In fact, I found that in my weakness I was able to find greater strength through my friends and family. I noticed that there is more friendship and love happening in my relationships when we are dependent on each other to meet our needs. 

That got me thinking about communities in a bigger picture. I’m not truly whole when I am alone. When I live within an active community, I am giving something of myself to fill the needs of others. That community gives back to me when I have a need. In community we can heal when we are broken. We can laugh when we share joys. We can cry together when we have loss. We are more whole when we are with others.

My surgery gave me this gift of perspective in the midst of the isolation I’ve experienced during the COVID pandemic. Moving forward, I need to make sure that I don’t become too isolated.  Because that’s when me and my community lose out on the giving and receiving that true community provides.