This time of year we are bombarded with holiday images. There’s Santa, of course, along with reindeer and sacks of toys; Sugar Plum Fairies and nutcrackers dance through our heads as well. For me, some of the images I can’t get out of my head are from a classical holiday song that’s got something for everyone—from the jewelry lovers to the nature lovers and everyone in between. I think that the imagery is so powerful for me this year in part because for the first time in my life I’m actually privileged to KNOW some of those eight maids-a-milking, six geese-a-laying, and even three French hens! It’s a beneficial byproduct of leading an organization like the Alice Ferguson Foundation where the working farm aspect of our facility, containing a wide array of animals, is one of the many things that make a visit here such a memorable experience.
Let’s face it, there’s something special about animals. They accept us for who we are. They don’t care about what’s in our wallets (though they do love carrots in our pockets!). And the notion of naughty or nice is totally different from their perspective. A colleague told me recently about a student who participated in a field study at our Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. This student was clearly one who had been deemed ‘naughty’ by teachers and even fellow students, which is a label you can carry for a long time, even if it’s not accurate any more. This student clearly felt the mark of his status, which is what made his words all the more powerful as he bonded with one of our playful goats and said “Wow, Sparkle really just likes me for me.”
Some students don’t have success in a traditional classroom. Their brains simply aren’t wired for it and because classroom environments don’t always have much space for alternative thinkers or kids with too much energy they get a ‘naughty’ label that’s hard to shake. Here at the Alice Ferguson Foundation, we get the gift of seeing these students excel in our environment—in nature! We get the gift of knowing that we’ve helped a child see themselves and the world a little differently. We get the gift of creating a lifelong memory for this precious child.
As “The Twelve Days of Christmas” continues to play on repeat in my head, flashing images of our animals and the smiling faces of students, I am reminded of how grateful we are here to receive these gifts and to, in turn share them with you.
I’ve got to go…Sparkle is looking for treats and I don’t want to disappoint!