Shortly after I turned 16, my grandfather bought me my first vehicle. I was extraordinarily excited. When it was time for its first oil change, my grandfather told me that I would be doing it. I was quite reticent to spend an afternoon doing this, but it was important to him that I knew how -- even if I never did it again. As Daddy talked me through the oil change, he told me a story which contained a lesson that stays with me. He shared with me his excitement over purchasing his airplane, and how much he adored flying. One day shortly after he bought it, he was working on it in the newly constructed Hangar, and Dr. Stradley stopped to visit. Dr. Stradley was Vice President of the Ohio State University, and his daughter Eliza was a classmate of my grandfather's. Dr. Stradley became a mentor to my grandfather, and helped him to get the scholarship which allowed him to attend OSU.
Wearing old clothes & attempting a task which was rapidly proving my skills inferior, I half-listened that day as Daddy talked about Dr. Stradley examining what was then a new Aeronca Chief airplane so many years ago. Virgil Harrison succeeded, though, in impressing upon me the key part of the story: as he visited with his mentor that day some fifty years before, Dr. Stradley said to him, "People will hate you because you have that plane." It was my grandfather's way of telling me that even a hard-won acquisition can inspire jealousy in others. The lesson quickly proved true when my grandmother shared with me that some of my family members did not approve of Daddy buying me a new vehicle. All they saw was a new & expensive gift. They did not see the years I had spent during my childhood working on the farm: baling hay in the hot sun, unloading hay early in the morning & late at night, feeding the sheep, gathering eggs, docking & castrating lambs, loading sheep for market. My grandfather did not have any hired help in my childhood, so I was his extra set of hands when needed. He never paid me, but he provided in other ways. I knew that -- and he knew that -- but there were some who just saw the new car.
My grandfather was often wont to let a story make his point. I never had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Stradley, but his words stay with me: "People will hate you because you have that plane." It is far too easy to judge another person without understanding their story, to be envious of what they have, and to hate them for who they are. I am grateful for this lesson, as it has sustained me when I was judged harshly, and it has served as a reminder to never judge others when we lack understanding of their situation. This judgement & hatred has been exacerbated by the presence of social media, a realm in which it is far too easy to promulgate negativity.
I am so grateful for the amazing people who have helped to make the Winter Bones art exhibit possible. I have put so much of my heart & soul into this endeavor, and I am humbled at the positive response we have received. Unkind words still hurt, no matter the situation. I found it rather unpleasant today to be called a "barbarian" by someone who found the art to be "terrible" and "sad". Social media allows people to rapidly offer negativity with no accountability. This individual does not know me, chooses not to learn my values, has no idea of the struggles which I have faced on the farm, and obviously does not recognize that I spend every day of my life working to ensure these animals have the best quality of life possible. Understanding others & being understood is incredibly important to me, so it is unpleasant to be judged negatively. Virgil Harrison, in his way, prepared me for all the people who would judge harshly based on perception, and not on the real story.
The opinions of my friends mean more to me than comments on social media. Knowing how those comments still hurt my feelings, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for sincere individuals in leadership roles to deal with even greater negativity on a continual basis. It saddens me when I see my friends -- people in whom I am deeply vested -- share memes & comments on social media that attack others. It makes me all the more committed to ensuring the farm (and everything that comes from it) is centered around our values of honesty, integrity, and loyalty. I want the farm to be a place where people find love & respect, and are empowered to be the best version of themselves.
I am proud of my work on the farm, and I am proud of what is being build there thanks to the amazing people who are a part of my farm family. I am proud of my work as a butcher, and proud that I raise the meat & eggs we eat on the farm. I am tremendously proud that I have worked to find ways to use all parts of an animal, as part of my effort to show my appreciation for that life. It is important to me to be transparent about my work as a farmer & butcher, and I am extremely proud to say that the animals of Harrison Farm are respected in life & in death. My friends know all of these things, and have supported me in making such things possible. Their opinions matter to me much more than the opinion of someone who chooses not to know my life's story. I hope I can honor the lessons my grandfather taught me by being the best steward of this farm that I can be, no matter who may judge me.