I’ve been thinking a lot about strengths, weaknesses and wholeness. On the farm, we’ve chosen a lifestyle where each of the kids have unique opportunities to give and receive through their daily lives. While our days are split between chores, basic needs, rest, play, and learning there are a couple days a week where certain tasks feel more urgent. Thursday harvest days come to mind.
One of our children is self-driven and prefers to get the work done as quickly as possible, two more will do the same with a little more play mixed in.
Adaline is the last to get to the physical work, but she’s incredibly gifted in the one thing a world that prioritizes production and metric driven data desperately needs, but often devalues.
Fast forward to just after lunch on a Thursday when everyone else is proud of the work they’ve accomplished. The animals are fed, the crops are harvested, the store is stocked, the bookkeeping is taken care of and a meal has been eaten and cleared.
Everyone is tired and worn, ready for some rest, everyone but Adaline.
As customers arrive Adaline’s work is just getting started. She’s spent the morning gathering special messages and gifts. She sits in a tree or by the window knowing when each person will arrive and runs out eagerly to greet them. If they are happy, she’s happy with them. If something sad happened to them that week she listens and feels sad with them. She asks about their dog, their vacations, birthdays, and knows their favorite color.
She feels alive and vibrant as she effortlessly goes about the emotional labor our society has forgotten we need.
She reminds us that all of the healthy, good food in the world will never be cooked and eaten if the person doesn’t feel love and connection.
As her mother, I work fiercely to protect this gift and hold space in hope that those around her might slowly learn to value these relational skills as “real” work.
When I contemplate on issues that concern our society (violence, broken homes, corporate greed, anxious children, oppression) I can’t help but consider the ways we’ve silenced, shamed, and even ghosted those among us who hold the keys that will unlock the doors we most need open.
This is a portrait of Michelle Howell, a hardworking farmwife, mother of five, author, and advocate. On the left side of the bust you can read text from the poem “Anyway” that was on a wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. “If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” “The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.”
Leslie Nichols, Artist