Archive for March 2014

Why every interaction matters

Winter barnFarm life has a way of keeping thoughts about life & death at the top of your mind.

This winter was especially cold in Oklahoma and my cattle suffered because of it, especially the young calves.

On a particularly cold morning I found one of my calves laying on the ground near its mother. It wasn’t curled up in a ball like calves normally lay, so I knew something was up.

It was still alive, but just barely. It had gotten too cold and had given up on moving around or even trying to get warm. I picked the calf up, wrapped it in my coat, and began moving its legs for it—trying to get the blood flow going.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. As I held it, the calf stopped breathing. It was a sad moment and reminded me of how fragile life is and how much it rests on a razor’s edge.

Those ideas raw in my mind, I began thinking about peoples’ lives. One moment we’re here, the next we’re gone. And that feels important to me as a reminder to treat each other well and value the interactions we have with the people around us.

Every interaction you have with another person, no matter how small, matters. When you say “Hi!”, or cut them off in traffic, when you give a piece of advice, or stay silent. It all matters because not only will those interactions ripple through your life and the lives of those around you, they are also all potentially final.

Through that filter, what would you want your final interaction with someone else to be like? Would you want it to be angry or hateful? Probably not. Would you want to walk away with either you or the other person feeling jealous, or hurt, or frustrated? Probably not any of those either.

So how would you prefer to impact others? I’m not saying you should walk around moping about the impermanence of life, but I think it’s important to value your interactions with other people and think through what you want the effects to be.

It’s easy to become apathetic, especially when we’re busy. But by occasionally reminding ourselves how fragile life is and focusing on kindness, I think we’ll all be better off.

Are you dissatisfied with what you have?

PigIt’s not a flattering comparison, but whenever I spend time out on the farm with my pigs, I can’t help but think about how much they act like people — or depending on your perspective, how much people can sometimes act like pigs.

Several days back I had an interesting moment while I was feeding my pigs that reminded me just how similar we can be.

Taking a ride

Feeding time hadn’t started well, for me anyway. After entering the pen and beginning to pour out feed, one of the pigs decided that I was taking too long and ran between my legs. For a few seconds I was riding a pig around the pen. I’m sure it was quite a sight.

Once I recovered I went to work pouring out feed in five different piles for my three pigs. They immediately started eating, but instead of picking a pile of their own, they all focused on each others’ food.

If one pig wandered to a different pile, the other pigs followed him. Even though there were more food piles than pigs, they nudged and shoved at each other, trying to “hog” the pile they were at.

They gave up having food to themselves because they wanted the food the other pigs had. It was all the same food, and there was more than enough. They just wanted the other pigs’ food.

Being a pig

I think people act like my pigs sometimes. We want what other people have, not because we want the specific thing, but because someone else has it. We envy our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and complete strangers.

Sometimes it’s not even enough for us to have the same things as the people around us. We want to have the things to ourselves. Unless we’re the only one with the special car, or a particular house, or certain clothes, those items lose their specialness to us—we don’t them anymore.

Have you ever worked at obtaining a goal only to be dissatisfied when you got it? If we’re not careful with understanding our reasoning for wanting money, or a house, or some milestone in our careers, it’s hard not to get trapped in a cycle of dissatisfaction.

So the next time you start to feel envy bubbling up, try to think it through. Do you want the thing because you really want it? Or are you just being envious because someone else has it.