Milking Cows is a Good Way to Learn Kindness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, and self-control. 

Galatians [5:22]

I usually speak to my mom once a day, by phone. We discuss many things; life, how she is doing, and the Boston Red Sox. Sometimes we ramble about little things, other times we venture into the profound. On a recent call, my Mom unknowingly gave me the clue to the roots of her kind and generous heart. Not in a bravado way, but through her eyes as a young teenager. She said; If you want to be a kind person, learn to milk cows!

My mom grew up during the Depression and World War II. Life was much leaner in those days and both parents sometimes had to work, as was the case with her parents. Each summer to help her parents out, my mother and her two siblings went to their grandparent’s farm to work. Some of mom’s favorite childhood memories come from spending her summers working on their farm.

Life is hard on a farm. There are fields to tend to, chickens to feed, and cows to milk. The day starts at dawn and isn’t finished until after dark. One of the hardest things to learn is how to milk a cow. Now it would seem that you put a pail under a cow’s udder, sit on a stool, squeeze the appropriate spot, and out comes milk.

Before today’s corporate dairy farms, in the mid 20th century, milking cows was not quite that easy. The cow had to know you and be comfortable with you. If you tried just sitting down and milking, it wouldn’t work. What made it even worse, was if you were impatient and surly.

Today’s dairy cows are fed supplements to make them produce more milk and generally, the cows are milked mechanically. Over time they become used to the process or if not, selected out. In the 1940’s, when my mom milked cows, dairy farms were not that sophisticated, and cows had to be milked by hand.

As a young teenager, she had to learn all the nuances of milking cows. Some cows could be stubborn and others easier to milk. Some needed a little pat or maybe a treat, each cow was different. And each cow performed better when spoken to with a calm voice. Today, my mom takes great pride in this past ability. It was her way of helping out both her parents and grandparents; and she became very good at the nuances of milking cows. The most important nuance was kindness.

Many times on our daily talks, my mom will use the milking of the cows as an example of how to deal with people. It never quite hit me, that the root of her kindness was from milking cows those many years ago. I had heard her stories many times, but only on a recent call, I was able to connect the dots. We were talking about the deep polarization in our country, and then she exclaimed;  As a country, we lack kindness and If you want to be a kind person, learn to milk cows! There it was the solution to our national dilemma, kindness!

In today’s verse, Paul writes in Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit. He says; The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. I have always loved this verse. One of the things I try to do is to recite all nine fruits that are listed from memory. It is a long list and invariably I forget a few.

Kindness stands out in this verse and in many ways is strongly connected to the other eight. For instance, you can’t have an attitude of love, without kindness. To have forbearance, you must be kind.  Being gentle takes kindness as well. Try this association with all the fruits yourself and you will see that the critical component of kindness is integral to the other eight.

When I read or hear about the angry discourse in our country, I wonder how much of it would go away if we approached all people with a little more kindness. Certainly, we wouldn’t talk over people. We would listen with the intent of learning instead of rebutting. We would deeply want to know why the other person had their point of view. It doesn’t mean we won’t disagree, and sometimes we will. Instead, we will create a sense of openness and trust.

This may sound a little too simplistic, but when I think about most of my friends and their polite conversations, there is one common denominator, they all have kindness! It doesn’t mean we always agree, rather civility and kindness are very important ingredients in any conversation.

Maybe my mom is right, milking cows will make us kinder!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash