Many people who no longer consume dairy products from cows, still consume dairy from sheep or goat’s milk. Many assume this is a more humane process because they also assume that it is more small-scale and humane. They picture pastoral scenes of happy sheep grazing on green hills under the sun.
I am in the Middle East. The area where I am staying is famous for it’s sheep’s milk and sheep’s milk yogurt. I was taking a walk today and saw the same event I see each day. Young boys with sticks guiding the sheep from rocky pasture to rocky pasture. They whip the sticks at the sheep to get them to stay together in a flock.
Today, I witnessed a mother sheep who had only moments earlier given birth while they were moving along next to me. Blood was still coming out of her and her back legs were soaked with blood. A little boy was ordered to take the little lamb, who could not even stand up yet. He picked up the lamb and started toward home, dropping the lamb many times along the way. While this was going on, the mother was trying to leave the flock and get to her baby. She cried loudly and the baby cried for her, but the boys whipped her to keep her from leaving the flock. Her udders were tightly swollen with dripping milk. While forced to join the flock, she never took her eyes off the lamb, until the boy and lamb were out of sight. She cried constantly. A man on the small dirt road translated and told me that the shepherd boys said she would be with her lamb in an hour when they finished grazing and returned to the farm. I wasn’t comforted by this. I wanted to be relieved, but I wasn’t. That hour would be a long hour for a mother separated from her new born and for this tiny lamb just born, looking for comfort.
Later in the day, I was walking and saw the mother again. She was separated from the lamb by two fenced areas. All night I could hear the mother crying for the baby and the baby crying for the mother. Their voices got weaker and weaker. By 5 am the baby’s voice sounded like a whisper and the mother’s pain was not only in her voice, but in my heart.
There are times I wonder why I come here. I ask myself what the point is. Why travel to a place and plant seeds of compassion in a society that embraces violence as a righteous part of its heritage? My answer to myself is that while I am on earth, I will make every effort to not turn away from an open door. If there is a door, wide open in front of me, inviting me in and beyond that door is some form of suffering asking to be addresses, why would I not walk thru that door?
Yesterday, the security cameras on the streets of East Jerusalem filmed a group of very young boys dragging a medium sized white dog on a rope and beating the her with sticks as they dragged and kicked her. She tried to hide under a car and they dragged her out and continued to beat her. An older boy appeared and grabbed the rope and swung it and the dog was flung over a concrete wall. The rest of the saga for this dog was not caught on camera. Eyewitnesses reported that the severely wounded dog crawled to a concrete pipe and hid inside. Then the boys stuff material in the end of the pipe and set the pipe on fire to kill the dog. Adults and families walked by and did nothing. The door was open and they chose to look the other way. These doors open around us all the time. What we witness in our days is presented to us as an opportunity. How we respond is our work while on the planet.
We are not powerless to make a difference in the world unless we choose to be powerless. We are all leaders when we choose to be. There is no reason to walk by that open door. Turn and face it and walk right in. You have nothing to lose and potentially a full meaningful life to gain.