Jim and Carol Cauley know giving back is the greatest form of gratitude
Farming on the same land since 1854, the Cauley family brings a constant and stabilizing presence to the small community at St. Mary Parish in Lyndon Station. St. Mary Parish is the oldest active parish in the diocese and thrives on a small, but committed, group of parishioners. Jim and Carol Cauley are proud to be an active part of this community and tirelessly work to bring joy and love to their family and their parish family. As with every family, Jim and Carol have endured ups and down throughout the years together. Through joyful blessings and difficult suffering, Jim and Carol prove to be tenacious in their commitment to the faith and remain humble in their constant and unshakable gratitude for the gifts God has given them, which they have joyfully shared with others.
The years we’ve done well, we always try to help someone else out, give back somehow,” he says. “When you give, you get much more in return.
Jim and Carol, who now farm the land of Jim’s father, both grew up in farming families. Having farming in their blood, however, does not mean the taking on of the management of a farm starts out easy, as Jim knows all too well. Early in his farming career, he lost his mom when he was 29, and then his father when he was 34. Running a farm, combined with having a young family, offered its share of stressful moments for Jim and Carol. On losing his mother and father, Jim reflects, “You don’t have your parents to lean on anymore, so you have to start figuring things out for yourself. So, there’s a lot of times where, through a lot of prayer, you just hope everything works out.”
Losing his mom six months after her diagnosis with cancer shook the family at its core. The Cauley family, especially Jim’s father, managed through that time with a lot of prayer.
“Our priest was Father Zinkle at the time,” Jim begins, “I talked to him quite a bit, as well as my dad. He always kept in constant contact, asking how things were going. He would stop by to see my dad. He was good with reassurance. Just reminding, you know, this is the plan for everyone, eventually.”
Father Zinkle’s greatest bit of advice for Jim came the day of his mom’s funeral. Jim recalls Father saying, “‘The greatest gift you are ever going to get from your parents is your faith.’ When you are younger you don’t realize that, you don’t think about that, but it is really true.” Carol adds, “You can’t have everything, but if you have your faith — you have a lot right there.”
The community around them also gives Jim and Carol a great source of gratitude and joy. Carol says of the tough times: “You have to laugh at things, have fun. You can sit and worry yourself to death, but you have to find joy and happiness. Friends and family help make that.”
Jim recalls, “When something happens like that, someone is there. When my parents died or when Carol’s father died, which was just recently, people come out of the woodwork giving you stuff, helping you out. That is pretty huge.”Defining life moments give insight into Jim and Carol’s unending gratitude and strong faith life. Their deep sense of gratitude has been forged by their parents’ examples of strong faith and life on the farm. There are so many aspects of farm life that bring you to your knees and Jim and Carol know how to stay grateful in the ups and the downs.
“With farming, you really have to pray a lot with the weather,” Jim says, “but there is really nothing you can do about it other than pray. A lot of times you just have to say to yourself, ‘There is nothing you can do about it.’”
They also know that no matter how bad it is for them, it is worse for someone else. Jim simply stays grateful for being able to feed his family: “We’ve never had to worry about where our next meal is coming from. That is a huge blessing.” Jim adds, “You can also look at it as, you know, someone always has it worse.”
In good times, Jim and Carol continue to promote a strong sense of gratitude through understanding that there may be someone out there not doing so well.
“I’m very thankful, I’ll just take for example, our crops. There’s times where we’ve had a really good crop, prices were good and we did really well, but I was very thankful for that because I know that someone else maybe didn’t have such a good crop. There’s years where things didn’t turn out as well,” he says.
Thinking of others’ situations allows Jim and Carol to keep things in perspective.
“I don’t think we ever let it get too far ahead of us. You can have all the monetary things you want, but they don’t mean anything. The years we’ve done well, we always try to help someone else out, give back somehow,” he says. “When you give you get much more in return. I find that to be very true. There’s times where we’ve given or donated and it seems like it just comes back to us,” he says.
Story and photography by Ben Williams