Posted on Jun 09, 2014
Last week we hosted a wonderful group of kids from the inner city who live in concrete, violence, and noise. Once a month these pre-teens get to come out to The Gentle Barn to enjoy bountiful colors, the sounds of nature, soft hugs, unconditional love, and learn to reach for infinite possibilities. Our program runs from September through June so this visit was their last official time with the animals for this year.
We wanted them to take something home with them that they can hang on their walls and remind them of the memories and friends made at The Gentle Barn as well as the progress they made over the year. The animals have helped them all become vulnerable and open, filled with hope and confidence. So we took pictures of each of them with their favorite animal, printed them out and then gave them frames to decorate. Each child decorated the framed beautifully, incorporating pictures and designs but also using the words that describe who they are and their dreams.
In the beginning of the year, the kids came in having no idea who they were or what they wanted to do when they grew up. At their last group meeting, they all said that they wanted to work with animals, or to be a teacher, a policeman, or an actor. They also knew exactly who they were and put words on their frames like kind, gentle, brave, smart, or creative.
When they were leaving we told them that the next and last time they come out to The Gentle Barn would be for a culmination drum circle and bonfire and it will be so fun because we will have marshmallows and hot dogs and we will dance and sing. One 10-year-old boy got very upset and said, “I cannot come to the bonfire then, because I don’t want to eat hot dogs anymore, it hurts animals!” “Oh!,” we exclaimed with a smile on our faces, “the hot dogs that we serve at The Gentle Barn are plant based and do not hurt animals!” “When and why did you decide to be vegetarian”, I asked? “Ever since I came here the first time,” he said, “I love animals so much and want to help them feel good and be happy.”
We hosted these kids to help them cultivate self-awareness and hope for the future. We wanted to help them be kind to animals and love nature. We wanted to help them learn to be vulnerable and open, willing to receive love and second chances. We wanted to help them find their voice and confidence. Well, they got that lesson way deeper and more permanently than we had hoped and we are so proud of them! Proud to know them and to have spent this year with them and proud to know that they will be the future generation. The earth will be safer, the animals happier, and their bodies will be healthier for it!
Written by Ellie Laks,
Founder, The Gentle Barn