There is a little sign in the garden of my friend Gabriel in Cuba. It reads “La bendición” or translated — the blessing.
I met Gabriel while training in permaculture food production in Cuba. We seemed to know each other from a past life and were immediately close friends. His beautiful family radiates their love for each other and with the little they have — they feel blessed.
Walking into Gabriel’s tiny space was like going home. I liken it to going to a cattle meeting or a bull sale, a pasture walk, visiting a feedyard or having coffee in a farm kitchen. There are just some folks in our life that are family from the start. We grow together, make mistakes and forgive each other, challenge each other and with dignity we offer help and support.
Gabriel and his family are far away but they are carried in my heart. And although I currently support them financially, one day I hope to bring them to Canada so they may joyfully experience what it is that we often take for granted — freedom, liberty, prosperity — freedom of speech, the liberty of person and religion, and the possibility of prosperity.
I know I have often taken liberal and creative license on these pages, never short of something to say, and you my kind and patient readers, have loved or languished over the conversation. I would like to thank you for that. I am an intruder really, breaking into your space and casting the net for creative dialogue. It is a great privilege and honour.
- More ‘Straight from the hip’ with Brenda Schoepp: 75 million cows missing
Through a few earlier stories and in this column, I have made over 120 appearances in the pages of Cattlemen. That equates to a decade of endurance on your part and of joy on mine. It was my dream to write for Cattlemen Magazine and I have profound respect for my editor Gren, and for my readers, who amaze me with their comments and kindness. You are such a big part of my life: my farm life, my family life and professional life.
As a mentor I always encourage change, growth and servitude and now it is my turn to live by those words. As I wrap up my master of arts in global leadership, other doors are opening that will allow me to challenge myself in more than the beef industry. It might be as tough and gritty as sorting range bulls on a cold day or as gentle as the spring breeze over a field of newborn calves, I don’t know. I only know that I am ready for this — and for all that life can throw at me.
As a child, I loved the farm and was an especially good fit in the feedyard. I love to sort fed cattle, I love to ride and to rejuvenate pastures, I love working with good dogs, and with the extraordinary people in our industry. This has been a great time of privilege.
I must thank my extraordinary family, and in particular, my children who often asked: Just what do you do anyway? They never read what I write which is a humility check but they know how much I love to and they make me smile. Thank you, Amie and Benjamin, for walking this life with me, for your constant support and for your unconditional love.
I am a woman of faith and without the protection of the Divine I would have fallen into the ditch a long time ago. But everyday — even after severe health challenges and years of recovery — everyday — I was granted another breath and eyes to see this beautiful world. For this privilege of life, I am so grateful.
On this my last page, I wish to pay tribute to you — the reader. Folks often ask what I will do post graduate studies (and at 60 years of age) and my reply is “something beautiful.” For I realize that leadership is really about those who support you. It is one act of courage and kindness at a time. It is intense listening. It is being vulnerable enough to change course. It is assuring someone that you “have their back” even when there is a high risk of going wrong. It is being there for the young people who I mentor from around the world — not as the one with a solution but with a caring heart. It is the rear position in the parade of life so others can let their lights shine. It is the preservation of dignity.
As part of our shared family and our shared community, I thank you for your commitment to feeding our world, to building bridges of hope, to growing rural communities and investing in our youth and our future. I thank you for your courage in tough years and your standing tall for policy, for change, for our environment, for animal welfare, for our mutual rights and for your voice in the debate.
As my final thought I leave you with my definition of gender equality. Please share it with your family or your close community, workplace or school and reflect on the gifts that you and those around you bring to this life.“Gender equality is not separating men and women. It is standing up for the excellence of each other so both may contribute in a way that they are gifted.”
With your gifts all things are possible.
And now my pen is still upon the desk and my thoughts return to those of gratitude and a tearful goodbye — for you have been a blessing to me.