One of the best gifts I ever got was a horse.
No, not an actual horse of my own (one day I will have farm for all the misfit creatures), but an "adopted" horse from a sanctuary for abused horses.
My husband, then boyfriend, "adopted" a horse for me for a year. That is, for a year I got pictures and updates as to how "my horse" was doing, and the knowledge that the money that my boyfriend would have spent on flowers or a trinket or dinners or what have you, was instead going to making sure that my horse, an old and crippled retired racehorse who would certainly have met a rather tragic and untimely death, was getting the food and care he needed to contentedly live out his twilight years.
Though I realize that money was a rather small effort in what it takes to run a sanctuary and keep its animals happy and healthy, it gave us some comfort to know that that sum of cash that only warranted small sacrifices in our daily comfort -- skip the coffee shop here, skip lunch out here -- would perhaps enable at least one animal to enjoy kindness instead of suffer cruelty.
Plus, as "crazy animal people" (and I know there are a few of you out there), getting those updates about my horse turned us in to "awwwwing" blathering idiots. If you were eavesdropping on us wondering about what "our boy was doing today," you'd think we'd just sent our only son off to college. Call us sentimental, but it was a great feeling.
Since then we've made it a point to donate to an animal rescue organization during at least some of the major gift-giving holidays. Filling stockings with batteries and dental floss isa Hung family favorite, but it's a lot more satisfying to find a picture of a horse or a pig that gets some hay because of our donation.
My mom and aunt have even got in on the action. Conversations about "MY chicken" or "MY cow" or "MY bear" (my aunt has branched out to more exotic wild life) are now a regular occurrence at our family gatherings. Every year when I ask my Mom what she wants for her birthday or Christmas she responds with, "Just find me an animal that needs some love."
People have asked us why we don't choose to give our money to causes that benefit humans in need (which by the way, we also do).
Not to get all "we are the world" on you, but cruelty is cruelty. By turning a blind eye to any sort of inhumane treatment, to any living thing, we prime ourselves to accept such cruelty. The way I see it, any gesture of kindness should not be judged -- animal or human, kindness begets kindness.
Not to mention, the thought that you made it possible for a pig or cow or goat to happily chomp on some feed while it enjoys the sunshine for maybe the first time int its life has GOT to give even the coldest heart some warm fuzzies. I mean come on, look at this:
So with all that being said, and I promise I'm climbing off my soapbox, I'm all for foregoing the typical Mother's Day gifts and either donating to, or sponsoring an animal in need. Flowers die, cakes get eaten (OK, cakes are good, but they are sadly fleeting), and "World's Best Mom" mugs get relegated to the back of the office kitchen cupboard, but making it possible for an abused animal to recuperate, that lasts a little longer.
Hello, Farm Sanctuary.
Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 to combat the abuses of factory farming and encourage a new awareness and understanding about farm animals. Today, Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s largest and most effective farm animal rescue and protection organization.
I've been a big fan of Farm Sanctuary for a while. They are one of the groups that really changed the way I think about the farming industry. And no, I'm not going to sit here and scold all of you for being omnivores, carnivores, or even cheese eating vegetarians (I myself am one of those). In my mind, when it comes to compassion and kindness, it doesn't have to be either or.
So in the spirit of Mother's Day (whatever your feelings are on that day), doesn't offering some "motherly care" to a farm animal sound like a worthy addition to brunch?
Maybe you want to sponsor Fanny:
Fanny, a "spent" dairy cow, was rescued from a stockyard. Her poor health left little hope for survival, but this strong cow persevered and recuperated. Although she never knew any of her own babies, Fanny has bonded with many young calves at our New York Shelter and loves each of them as her own.
Adriano was rescued with more than 60 other farm animals from a backyard butcher operation. When he arrived at our New York Shelter, Adriano refused to be parted from his mother and sister, head-butting anyone who tried to separate them. Adriano still spends much of his time with his family, but he has made plenty of human friends, too.
Or maybe Erika, as goats seem to be replacing cats on the interweb as the "cute du jour":
Erika is a rare and lucky goat. Unlike many other animals, Erika has been able to grow up with her mother, Claire, as well as her "aunt", a sheep named Felicity. Claire was rescued from extreme neglect and brought to our Southern California Shelter, where we discovered that she had a surprise for us -- she was pregnant with Erika!
I could go on and on about all the animals like Julia,
I have to curb my gushing.
If sponsoring or adopting a farm animal is a little too hefty of a price tag for you (I mean you're talking to the woman who regularly decides between gas for her car or lunch for her stomach), you can also make a one-time donation of an amount more agreeable to your bank account.
Oh! And if getting your hands dirty is a little more your style, click here to find out more about Farm Sanctuary's internship program.
So I hope all of you have a great weekend either celebrating a special parent in your life, or simply celebrating the fact that it's Sunday and you can catch up on your binge TV watching of choice (I've recently discovered "Firefly," years late as usual, so I'll see you there). But I hope if you decide to give gifts, you'll consider sharing some of the wealth with somebody like this: