Is there work I can do – paying work – that would allow me to be outside most days? To tilt my face up to the sun or the clouds or open my mouth to taste the raindrops or snowflakes? Is there a way I could feed my family while listening to the conversation of the wind, smell the dirt of the forest floor and rest in the call of the birds?
Today I rode a school bus with my daughter’s 4th grade to spend half a day at Sasha Farm, an animal sanctuary in Manchester, Michigan. It was a field trip I planned to support a curriculum unit on taking a stand for what you believe in, with a sub-lesson on the proper treatment of animals.
These are kids who spend most days in structured classroom settings, with after-hours glued to little screens and tapping thumbs. These are kids who may live in tiny homes with little yards, if any, to play in. These are times when children are not encouraged to run outside and explore – what about the strangers? what about the wild animals? what about the fast traffic hurtling down our street?
And we are in an era of education when order is paramount. Stand in line, be quiet, follow orders. It’s the only way to try to educate the masses.
So when they hit the dirt, it was glorious to see them stroke the fur of goats, commune with cows, sidle up to sows, love the horses. The farm owners didn’t care that they were pulling up fistfuls of grass to feed the goats for the better part of an hour. Everyone was happy, everyone fed, and I don’t mean just nutritionally.
It was a perfect lesson on perspective, too. What really matters? These animals all have been rescued from danger, from death, from carelessness and neglect. We didn’t go into their stories but the kids knew they were there to be safe, to be cared for, to live free and appreciated.
When we first stepped off the bus, there were girls who held their noses and said, “Ewww, it smells,” and there were boys all rowdy and out of focus. It took maybe five minutes for them to calm into the moment, to breathe the air, to realize that the scent of a farm is the scent of life happening.
I stood on the tall grass, took in the scene of children running free over an open meadow, loving the animals. My daughter connected with a particular goat, reveled in the way he came when she called.
To show love for another and see them respond to your nurturing is a life force.
We fell asleep on the bus ride back, Eliana leaning into me, our heads bobbing to the bumps of the bus. She has always been a Mama’s girl and mentioned how she’d rather go home with me after school than go to her dad’s.
I pointed out how lucky she is to have three parents who love her and want to be with her. I mentioned how important it is for her to spend time with her dad, and how important for him, too.
She said, “Why do parents need to spend time with their kids?”
I replied, “Why have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?”
She fell silent.
Each of us on this planet has our stronger connections and our supporting connections. They all matter. But some drive us further than others, and seeing the children connect with these animals today, well, I’d be reading too much into it if I suggested that they could relate on some level to the concept of rescue from danger and safe haven, wouldn’t I?
And any living creature loved is as if an entire world is saved from destruction.