Brooding On

The Power of Choice

A couple months back, Little Boy and I accompanied Girl 1 on a class field trip to a local museum.  One of my favorite exhibits was on rural southern life during the Great Depression.  The tour guide asked the kids to imagine they lived on a farm during that time period and explained that they'd be responsible for milking the family cow, helping in the garden, and helping mom to make things like bread and soap.  All of this sounds so very familiar.  Interesting. 
The guide asked the kids if they knew what was used to make soap.  Girl 1 proudly raised her hand and said, "Milk!"  The guide didn't like that answer and corrected her with "Animal Fat."  Girl 1 winced.  But, she may have more experience with soap making than the tour guide, and at our house, we make lard-free soap that uses our goat milk.  Anyway, it got me to thinking that Girl 1 knows the answer to questions like that because a lot of what we do around here looks a lot like life then. 

There is, however, one very important difference:  CHOICE.

Ahh.  The power of choice. 

On days when John and I run in the morning, our routine looks like this:
5:15  alarm goes off
5:20  John leaves the house for his run while I milk the goat and process the milk
6:10  John tends to the chickens and goats while I hit the road for my run
7:00  we all sit down to breakfast together

And, even when we don't run, that alarm goes off at 5:15.  And, I don't hate it.  In fact, I really enjoy those quiet, early-morning milkings.  But, then, unlike the farmers "back in the day,"  I've made the choice to live like this.

The museum guide explained to us that, though  much work was involved in living on the farm during the Great Depression, those folks were actually quite fortunate as compared to their city-dwelling neighbors because they had means to support themselves through their farming lifestyles.  They had the skills necessary to "get by" in rough times.  They did have milk.  They did not have choice.  Is it any wonder that as the economy improved and technological advances offered a more leisurely lifestyle, our predecessors grasped the opportunity to, say, purchase sliced bread from the market?

If John and I should decide that 5:20AM milkings are not to our liking, we could quit it.  The goat would quit producing milk, and I could go right back to buying our milk at the grocery store.  If my zucchini plants don't produce or get eaten up by squash bugs, I can still have my stir fry.  It's just a grocery-store trip away.  Should I decide that baking our own bread is just too inconvenient, I can just add it to my shopping list.
And, isn't it true that choice is often closely linked to our enjoyment of an activity?  The kids love to do chores around here, so long as they feel they are the ones choosing to do them rather than being told to do them.  We get that warm, fuzzy feeling when we volunteer for a good cause because we CHOSE to do something good for someone else. 

As I teach myself to do things that my ancestors did as a matter of necessity, I recognize that choice is what separates us.  I am quite thankful for that gift.