“Speak gently — it is better far to rule by love than fear; speak gently, let not harsh words mar the good we might do here. Speak gently, love does whisper low, the vows that true hearts bind; and gentle friendship’s accents flow, affection’s voice is kind. Speak gently to the young, for they will have enough to bear; Pass through this life as best they may, tis full of anxious care. Speak gently to the aged ones, grieve not the care-worn heart; their sands of life are nearly run, let such in peace depart.” — from the book of Shaker sayings, compiled by Kathleen Mahoney
I am always touched by comments from Farm and Dairy readers. My column two weeks ago about Grandma Ruth’s advice in speaking softly to our children prompted positive comments from many of you. Our world would be a much better place if every one of us tried harder to live with kindness and grace, of that there is no doubt.
We were snowed in this past weekend and a wonderful friend of my children’s spent the night with us. As Kristen and I sat together, talking late into the night, our conversation centered around this very thing. At 20, this beautiful, young woman has seen both the good and the bad in people and wonders why there has to be such negativity, such harshness, in so many.
Working her way through college, Kristen put in long, late hours in a service station convenience store, working holidays or covering for others who needed a night off. One day recently, the store was sold and Kristen suddenly found herself without a job. A week or two went by and the offer came through that she could work limited hours, for even less pay than she had slowly worked her way up to, by being a dedicated worker.
She chose not to take the new owner up on this, but, instead, is focusing on her college classes.
She shared with me the newest thorn in her life. Kristen is dealing with a professor who continually says, “I don’t care if you learn this or not — I am getting paid whether you ‘get’ it, or not.”
Assignments are often unclear and much more difficult to complete. Kristen, who is paying a good amount of money for this class, has reached out to me for help in simply deciphering what this professor actually wants, and I have had to guess at the starting point.
“Why do people have to be like this?” Kristen so wisely questions.
Kristen has told us that coming to our farm is her greatest joy. She finds the wide open space welcoming and rejuvenating, the serenity a gift that makes her feel she can face another day with a positive heart.
I have told her that I have often thought we have more hatefulness and anger in the world in direct proportion to the loss of those wide open spaces. When the stresses of living in an overpopulated world overwhelm, people are starving for that quiet place to turn for a reconnection to the land.
There were so many times as a child that I sought the refuge of a hike through our woods, or a barefoot walk through the creek with our farm dog, just to get away from some hurt, slight or insult. Without even knowing it, I was finding my own coping mechanism. Before the sun had set on a tough day, my soul had been soothed, my resolve strengthened.
We cannot solve the problems facing this generation of which our children are a part of, but we can open our farm to all of their friends. We can offer them a safe place to play in the snow and the sunshine, a site to ride horses and four-wheelers, to explore and get away from the world. We can show them the joy and reward of hard work, the gifts of seeds planted and harvested, trees and perennial plants started and nurtured.
It seems so little, and falls so short of all that we would like to do for a group of great kids, but we feel blessed to be able to share this serene place with them.
A few weeks ago, an extremely tiny, newborn Yorkie puppy needed someone to help her nurse off of her mama, and I had to be away for a long shift at work. Kristen gave up her day off of classes and stayed here, warming up the heating pad every so often, feeding the mama and helping the puppy find its way to nurse every hour. It made all the difference of thriving and surviving or the certain fading away of this only pup in the litter.
I returned from work that day to a peaceful trio: Kristen, sitting cross-legged on the floor, the mama and the tiny puppy next to her, doing well. Kristen refused to allow me to pay her for her time and trouble, saying just being here is better than money.
Last night, as Kristen curled up on the couch with the tiny 3-week-old puppy, a blissful smile on her pretty face, I felt this incredible joy. No matter where Kristen travels in the world, she will take a part of this place with her. She will know that we are here, welcoming her any time she wants a safe, serene, joyous place to land.
It is a gift we feel blessed to be able to give.