On our small farm we raise Dexter cattle. They are, as they say, thrifty. They do well on grass and don’t really need grain at all. However, I have chosen to feed them a modest amount of grain, morning and evening. I do this so that they’ll love me, or at least they will see me as the source of the thing they love best in the world: grain. The practical benefit for this transferred affection is that the cows will come to me if I need them to move from one paddock to the next or, worst case, they will come to me if they get out.
When I say I feed them a modest amount; I mean that quite literally. When I feed them I do so by reaching over the fence and pour a coffee can of grain into a feed pan. Each cow has access to her own individual pan. What I’ve noticed is that the cows have absolutely no sense of gravity. By that I mean she only pays attention to the grain that’s in the pan. She seems not to have the slightest sense that there is a source of the grain; that the grain is being poured from above. As soon as the first kernels hit the pan, in swings a big bovine head, often blocking the falling grain from the pan and scattering it on the ground. They are so focused on the prize right in front them that they are oblivious to the source of the grain. They never look up. They never learn. They focus completely on the wonder of the grain in the pan in front of them, and that’s it.
It’s easy to conclude that they’re simply not very smart. They seem incapable of making a connection that is put before them twice a day, day in and day out.
But then again how different are we? Day by day we discover wonderful things: blessings actually. Sometimes those things are deep wonders like being the recipient of the love of another human being, or the opportunity to love another person, or something as commonplace as the beauty of a sunrise, or a bird’s call, the memory of a wonderful moment, or simply the calm quiet of congenial conversation at the end of a long day. These are all blessings, these are all treasures in the grain pan of our days, as it were. And yet how rarely do we look up to see the ultimate source of those blessings? How often do we, in our hunger for more blessings, actually block them? In our hunger, or is it greed, we so often stand in the way of receiving blessings, and even more tellingly, fail to seek and celebrate their source.