Empathy and Respect for Others | M’Liss Koopman
The first thing you need to know is I’ve spent a great deal of my life learning about animals. Which is why I was so surprised, as a Tour D’Coop Host, when the 2nd and 5th and 21st person to visit my coop asked me the exact same thing—“How do you get eggs without a rooster?!!” For the record, you don’t need a rooster, and the 21st visitor was by no means the last one to ask—which is one of the best things about volunteering as a Tour D’Coop Host. People are really curious about the natural world, and eager to learn about backyard chickens.
They’ve got questions—lots of questions! Some serious, some unbelievable, some downright funny. And stories…older visitors—long removed from rural environs, holding on to grandchildren—relish sharing stories of childhood chores, searching for eggs, feeding the flock. They get a bit of a gleam in their eyes, pleased with the memory. Delighted their grand kids are experiencing something they, too, experienced as children.
Today’s younger city-dweller may not have ever stepped foot onto a traditional farm, and if they know anything about chickens, it is only from news footage of commercial “factory” farms or high school biology class. Answering questions and teaching others about chickens is fun because Tour visitors are excited to learn and appreciate me giving my time, to them. Visitors thank me, over and over.
My biggest joy is watching a child pet their first chicken. That child is making a connection and learning that a chicken is a living, feeling organism–like themselves. All of that knowledge is instantly conveyed as they stroke my old hen and look into her eyes. When I watch this—literally hundreds of times each Tour Day—I know that experience is crucial to that child growing up to treat animals–and humans—with kindness, respect and empathy. At the end of the day, this is the BEST thing about being a Coop Host—not the part about being motivated to accomplish spring gardening chores, or paint my coop, or even supporting such an incredible organization as Urban Ministries of Wake County.
Whatever your interest in the Tour D’Coop—helping people, animals, the environment, Urban Ministries; or learning about local and sustainable food–it all starts with us having empathy and respect for others. When I’m a Tour Host, I’m doing my part to teach this, in my community. And that feels amazing!