Last week was our county fair--a very small one, as county fairs go. I suspect that fairs are a dying breed, and so we participate in several ways just to keep the powers-that-be from looking around and saying "why bother?"
We pick garden veggies to enter in the vegetable competition. We enter our handmade items in the open class needlework competition. This year The Farmer entered a skein of handspun yarn. I also entered a skein of handspun yarn, a crocheted scarf, and one of my rugs.
And our kids show animals through the 4H program.
4H participants spend 2-6 months (depending on the animal shown) working with their animal, caring for it daily, getting it used to being handled. This teaches them responsibility.
Many of the kids form a close bond with their animals. All of the animals are sold at the end of the fair, and there are always a few tears shed as the kids help load their animals on the stock trailers to be brought to auctions or slaughterhouses.
You might be tempted to think that this process of allowing kids to form an attachment with an animal and then shipping it off to freezer camp is heartless. It is hard on the kids, as well as some of the moms and dads. But it is important that people understand that eating involves the raising and harvesting of plants and animals; food does not magically appear on the grocery store shelves. Some food activists have been raised without an understanding of the food production process, and now as adults believe almost anything they are told. Seeing and participating in the process helps the kids to come to terms with the fact that something must die for another to eat.
Allowing the kids to experience both sides of the love/loss equation also teaches them relinquishment. I was discussing the fair with a friend over the weekend, and she gave me the word. Relinquish. Verb. To give up. To stop holding physically. To give over possession or control of. To leave behind.
I've been thinking about it ever since our discussion. It's part of adulthood--the giving up of something. You give up your summers when you take a job to earn money for college. You give up free time and sleep when you become a parent. You give up the opportunity for a great job because you want to be near family; or the reverse. You give up something you really want because you know it isn't what is best for you, or the time isn't right, or something or someone else is more important than having what you really want. Life is full of these opportunities to live open-handedly. Might as well start learning young.