Tag Archives: empathy

Perhaps Agape Can Heal Us…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


The inspiration for this post comes from Dr. Tom Osborne and his book Mentoring Matters.

Supporting scripture comes from 1 Peter 3:8-9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.


About 10 days ago, my favorite farmer and I attended a fundraiser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tom Osborne was the featured speaker. Anyone who has spent any time in Nebraska is familiar with Dr. Tom. He coached the Husker football team for 25 years leading them to multiple National Championships before becoming our 3rd District Congressman from 2001-2007. While Dr. Tom is famous for many things, I believe that his greatest gift is tied to mentoring kids.

Dr. Tom’s personal mentoring in the classroom and on the football field grew to include the creation of an amazing mentoring organization in the early 1990’s. At this time, Tom and his wife Nancy founded the TeamMates organization. Over the last twenty seven years, TeamMates has grown from a local Lincoln mentoring effort to encompass programs in multiple states that impact tens of thousands of kids each year. TeamMates pairs students with local community mentors in an effort to offer support and guidance to our young people during a critical time in their lives.

Dr. Tom believes that the key to healing our broken country can be found in sharing agape. He defines agape as “unconditional, selfless love for another”. It is willing the best for another person regardless of the depth of your relationship or their behavior toward you. Agape is about what is in your heart, and showing a supportive attitude toward others independent of their behavior / feelings toward you. It takes a tremendous strength in character to show universal agape. Dr. Tom points out that this type of love provides a critical component for a mentor’s success.


When I think of agape, my mind goes to Jesus and his journey on earth. The Bible is full of examples of Jesus turning the other cheek —  loving unconditionally — and sharing blessings with all. He preached that love covered a multitude of sins and demonstrated that purpose came from sharing cheerfully of ourselves in order to help others.

  • It’s hard to be kind – even when others hurt us.
  • It’s hard to show love – to everyone.
  • It’s hard to commit to being selfless – looking outside of circumstances to remain positively supportive.

Although I try, this challenges me daily. The spiritual maturity needed to positively improve takes constant intentional focus. It requires changing what is in your heart and building the habit of sharing agape.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I’ve been blessed to spend significant periods of time coaching and mentoring kids in my community. I’ve had moments of inspiration when I found the right words – chose the right actions – and made a meaningful difference in the lives of the kids whose paths intersect with mine. I’ve also had times of mistake when I allowed my insecurities or hurt feelings to affect my level of support. I regret my mistakes and I wish that I could get those times back.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus allows for forgiveness. I move forward, always trying to get better, because I know that it matters.

How I share – What I share. It makes a difference.

Each child that touches my life inspires me and brings meaning to my journey. I hope that my support will allow them to believe that their lives hold meaning. That all of our actions – together – can help to build a culture of love. We are all children of God.

When we all strive to share agape, perhaps we will find the key.

Are you willing to open your heart and try?

 

 

 

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What’s Your Perspective?

The color of my eyes has always been brown.  My eyesight has always been average.  The world as I see it out of my average brown eyes continues to evolve and change.   When I think back to the way that I viewed the world as a 22 year old urbanite college graduate, it is easy to note a fairly drastic change in my perspective.

Encarta defines perspective as “a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person’s point of view”.  I believe that life is a journey and one’s perspective dictates the lens of the camera through which the journey is viewed and documented.  The ever changing lens of perspective channels both our beliefs and our resulting actions as we pass through that journey of life.

We each have an ever evolving perspective...

There is no doubt that my life has undergone massive changes in the last 15 years.  I left the city, moved to rural America, went to work on a cattle farm, learned how to run a small agricultural business, gave birth to three beautiful girls, and was challenged for several years with a chronic illness.  Every single one of those momentous events (and the hundreds of smaller ones that went along with them) has altered my perspective and shaped the way that I now view the world.

He is genetically wired to think very differently than me...

Learning to understand the perspective of a prey animal has been invaluable to me in both my quest for self-improvement and my vocation of caring for cattle.  Spending each day interacting with animals that view the world so very differently from the way that I do has quite literally opened my eyes and taken me to a new level of observation.  There is no doubt that the perspective that I have gained from my animals has not only changed my thought processes, but has also likely created a perspective that is different from many of you who do not spend your days surrounded by cattle.

Do you see the calf looking at me? Can you tell that he is asking me a question?

I tell my children that empathy is one of the most important traits to develop. Having the ability to understand another’s feelings is a life skill that is intrinsically tied to success—I would be unable to properly care for either my family or my animals without it, and would likely also do a very poor job of explaining my feed yard to you!   I ask myself routinely what your (my reader’s)  perspective looks like as I write my blog posts.  Just as I try to view the world through the eyes of my cattle, I also try to view the world through the eyes of someone who does not live on a farm.

We spent four years together at Dartmouth, now she lives in Los Angeles where she writes screen plays for TV shows and movies, and I live in Central Nebraska and raise cattle. It takes empathy to continue to build a shared perspective...

After my experiences over the last couple of weeks writing the Lean Finely Textured Beef blog posts, and then having them circulate through social media resources via BlogHer and a couple of other non-agricultural blogs; I am realizing that I need to continually work on understanding the perspective of my urban consumers.  Although I used to be that person, my life has changed so drastically in the last 15 years that we now view the world through different lenses.  While I work on this, I would like to encourage all of you to continue interacting with me via Feed Yard Foodie so that you can share some of my perspective and we can also hopefully develop a new shared perspective together.

I put the Interactive Feed Yard Foodie Cattle Handling Challenge up last week as a way to inspire all of you to broaden your perspective and try to “think like a calf”.  I also have a few early posts from last spring that will help you to do this.  If you missed them, you can use these links to read them:  https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/understanding-how-a-calf-thinks-and-what-he-needs%E2%80%A6a-cornerstone-of-good-care/https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/empathy%E2%80%99s-role-in-caring-for-food-animals%E2%80%A6/.

Can you see the intent and the interaction that is occurring between me and the light red / yellow steer?

I want to end this week with both a promise and a request…

  • I promise to steadfastly try to understand your perspective and realize that you will invariably view the world differently that I do.
  • I ask that you please help me to understand your perspective, and also to open your minds to the perspective of a cattle farmer who spends her days working with animals that are grown with the express purpose of raising beef.  Additionally, I ask that you recognize that the perspective of my animals is very different than any human perspective and must be properly understood in order to offer appropriate care specific to those animals.

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Empathy’s role in caring for food animals…

Most days I feel as though I have more savvy using empathy with my animals than I do with people.   Part of that is the fact that I spend more time interacting with animals than I do with people, and part of that is that I find communicating with my animals challenging and rewarding.  The satisfaction that I feel when I effectively communicate with my animals and watch them thrive on my cattle farm is similar to the “athletic high” that I used to feel competing in swimming and running.  The added bonus is that I know my hard work offering the best care to my animals will result in the production of the highest quality of beef that I will feed to my children and you will feed to yours.

A few weeks ago I talked about what is important to my cattle and how good care requires not only an understanding of how a calf thinks, but also being able to empathize with the animal and “view the world as he does”.  (See previous posts archived under the topic of Animal Welfare).  Humane care must be defined at the animal’s level in order for it to have qualitative meaning.

Have you ever tried to let go of your “human thoughts and tendencies” and truly put yourself in the place of an animal?  It is very challenging, and it is something that cannot be completely learned and understood without many hours of observation and interaction with the animal.  You can read about it in a book or listen to someone explain it, but “hands on” work with the animal is imperative to your success in offering quality care that is based on the needs of the animal.

For instance, I am a naturally “straight-line thinker” and a planner.  I am very logical and task oriented.  I want to get from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.  This was a huge obstacle for me as I tried to understand my animals because they are not “task oriented” and what makes sense for them does not necessarily correspond with my view of the world.  They live in the present and they are concerned with survival.  They do not view the world in straight lines and “tasks”.  They are concerned with:

  1. Safety from predators (survival)
  2. Food
  3. Comfort
  4. Play

Safety from predators trumps everything else because a calf is a prey animal.  That is his genetic make-up and the way that his brain is constructed.  Food, comfort, and play come into effect when safety is insured.  Remember, my calves live in the present and are incapable of imagining the future.

So, how do I make that “Patchwork Quilt” that Ashley Grace describes (see Ashley Grace’s corner) as I understand and have empathy for my animals?  I let go of my human tendencies and thoughts, and focus on the qualities that go into being a good “prey animal leader”.

Can anyone offer any ideas of what qualities are necessary in order to be a good “prey animal leader”?  Please leave your ideas in the comment section of this post so that we can talk about them!

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General

Every flower is different…

My cowboy brought me a quote the other morning at the feedyard because it reminded him of one of my daughters.  It is a quote by

One of my special flowers.

Marcelene Cox and states, “Children in a family are like flowers in a bouquet: there’s always one determined to face in an opposite direction from the way the arranger desires.”  I spent the weekend thinking about this quote and the fact that each individual thinks and views the world differently.  I see it in my children, I see it in my community, and I see it when I travel outside of rural America.  We not only think differently, but we also all have different gifts and talents.  Separately we are like random pieces of cloth of many different colors, together we make a beautiful patchwork quilt like the one my daughter Ashley Grace describes in her poem.  So, how do we make the pieces of fabric fit together into that quilt?

Empathy and Understanding…

Empathy provides the foundation of all relationships.  It is the ability to “listen to understand” instead of “listening to respond”.  It is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and truly understand their point of view.  It is a tremendously important human skill and I use it in all of my relationships whether they are human to human or human to animal.

Less than 2% of the American population has any ties to agriculture or the growing of food.  Therefore, more than 98% of the American population does not have any first-hand knowledge of how food is grown. This statistic clearly demonstrates the gap that exists between farmers (the people that make the food) and consumers (the people that eat the food).   With lives so intrinsically different, how are we then going to come together in such a way to make that beautiful patchwork quilt that symbolizes unity and cooperation, and ensures the sustainability and prosperity of both our country and our chosen way of life?

After all, we have to eat to survive…

I believe the key to this is to inspire empathy in every person.  This allows us to begin to come together and understand each other’s needs and desires.  It also encourages each of us to use our individual gifts to their fullest potential for the benefit of our neighbors (both near and far).  Every person has a right to know and understand where their food comes from.  Every person has a responsibility to “listen to understand” when that conversation occurs so that we can develop a relationship based on trust, empathy, and truth.  In doing this, we will create that beautiful patchwork quilt of prosperity and understanding.

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