One day in our village in China, I was invited to join a couple of the town’s leaders to check some nearby fields. I didn’t know the tall, green crop that was waving in a slight breeze, but it surrounded the town. As we walked out to the field, we passed a new self-propelled combine, a brand that I recognized since I was a farmer’s daughter.
We walked into the field, where there was an odd interruption in the ripe crop … a familiar-looking square of pounded dirt. My host explained the crop would be cut down by about 20 workers, carried to the pounded dirt where other men would tramp on the plants to separate the leaves from the crop itself. He told me that this work required long hours and many workers.
Before I thought, I asked, “You have that new self-propelled combine down the street. Why don’t you use that? It would be so much easier and faster?”
The men looked away. One, who spoke excellent English, answered, “If we used the combine, 19 or 20 men would be out of work.” Now I was the embarrassed one.
I nodded, appropriately impressed on this first trip to the fields. Inside, I knew I’d never mention the combine again; the odds were against it. One man on the self-propelled versus 20 or more men out of work? A no brainer.