Posted on Oct 01, 2020
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
When I was going through my most difficult times as a child, it was always animals who healed me and kept me going. Even when I tried to kill myself at seven years old, it was a hummingbird who flew within inches of my face and beckoned me to stay. I don’t remember the names of early friends, teachers, or street addresses, but I can tell you the names of every single animal who listened as I cried, kept me company, and ushered me gently through growing up and all its challenges. It was always animals who saved and healed Jay through his childhood abuse as well. We both know first-hand how magical animals are and how much they have to share with us and teach us. So, it makes perfect sense that Jay and I are now saving animals and partnering with them when they are ready to heal people who are struggling.
There is an animal at the Gentle Barn that mirrors each person’s story. Whether someone is lonely, without a family or home, surviving abuse or neglect, struggling with addiction, or just feeling sad, they can find their mirror in one of our animals and get the inspiration that comes from interacting with them. We have had burn victims identify with scarred animals, foster children strengthened by once orphaned animals, animals wearing prosthetics give hope to amputees, and sadness disappears with a hug from a goat or a cuddle from a turkey. We have worked with people from domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, foster agencies, addiction rehab centers, senior centers, inner-city schools, special needs classes, and war veteran centers. Animals bring out the very best in all of us and connect us back to the love inside us. They give us pure, unconditional love, with no judging or criticism. And when they choose to spend time with us, it is the highest honor of all.
Recently I hosted a little girl who was about to have brain surgery. She had high anxiety and her mom was scared to death. They came out each week to give cookies to the horses, cuddle in the straw with the pigs, hug the cows, and practice motor skills, vocal skills, and confidence.But most of all, when they were at The Gentle Barn they breathed more deeply, relaxed their shoulders, forgot about life for a minute, and just connected to others in a deeply spiritual way. It gave them the courage to face the surgery, and the faith to know that they will be alright. I fell in love with them in the barnyard and I miss them so much! COVID has put a pause on our sessions, but now that they are past the successful surgery, I cannot wait till they can come back out and be with us.
We live in a society that acts out of separation and competition. But I believe in a world of unity and connections. I think that we are all here to support, heal, and uplift each other, no matter what small or large, furred or feathered, human or non, form that we come in! And those deep connections can be felt at The Gentle Barn so strongly each and every day! Please come out to The Gentle Barn for our gentle drive through, haunted barnyard fundraiser, virtual private tours, and one day soon when COVID is over, come out in person and hug a cow!