“Life is good!”
Those three simple words will echo in my head (and heart) for a very long time.
As Matthew sat in the van yesterday after spending over 8 hours volunteering at Two Rivers Wildlife Park he had a look of contentment that spoke volumes. He is into his second month of volunteering at the park which is something he has wanted to do for years. Now that we are living a little closer and he’s older we decided it would be a good chance for him to spread his wings (pardon the pun). Even though it is still close to an hour’s drive round trip so far it’s been more than worth it for him, and for us.
Since we moved last July, Matt had his heart set on raising chickens. We have the room, we do live in the country now, after all and he loves animals. At first I was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen. Ever. Slowly I guess I backed down enough that we went from ‘not a chance’ to putting money aside for a chicken coop.
After his second or third day at the park he seemed somewhat bummed out once he got home. He didn’t think he was going to be able to handle having the chickens. One of his jobs that day required him to get right into the chicken coop and feed the birds. The noise got the better of him. He really wasn’t sure if he would be able to tolerate it all. the. time.
Matthew had a decision to make. And like most things that we have our heart set on, when we realize the reality of some of the things we’d like to have, it’s hard having to be practical rather than go with what our heart wants. Mike and I completely understood where he was coming from. We told him that this was a decision that he had to make on his own. Whatever his choice was, we’d support it. We told him how proud we were of him for realizing that this may not be the best idea right now and reminded him that even if he chose not to go ahead with a chicken coop this year, that’s not to say that he couldn’t revisit the idea next year. Perhaps the more time he spent at the park the more he would get used to the different noises and the high pitches. He disappeared to be by himself for a while to think. Within an hour he was back stating that he made his decision. He was going to take the money put aside for the coop and use it on other projects in the yard for this year. The chicken coop will wait. We reiterated how proud we were of him and talked to him about how great it was that this volunteering position has taught him something very valuable already. If he wasn’t there to see/hear the ways different animals go on, he could have invested all that time and money into something that he wouldn’t have gotten the enjoyment out of that he hoped. Everything happens for a reason. Damn cliches.
Here’s a couple of pics that he’s sent to me while he been working. The peacock all in his glory and 2 day old baby goats born this week.
He’s been paired with a few different people since he began his journey out there; none of whom he knew previously. He’s been 100% on his own with it, too. Mike and I told him at the beginning that this was something he was doing on his own if he wanted it. We’d take him and pick him up but we weren’t staying. He was ok with that. The people he’s been working with have been great, he has quickly fit in to the group and is learning (and teaching) a lot.
From feeding alpha male wolves to making a bed for a barn cat to raking leaves around the administration building he’s been getting his hands into a lot of different aspects of life at the park. He tells me that come summer vacation he is going to be “handling the barns”.
Do you remeber how you first felt when you realized there was something you were ‘good‘ at? That feeling of belonging and accomplishment and desire to learn everything you can about it? That’s where Matthew is now.
He’s not a sports guy, he’s not really ‘into’ anything that he could be a part of in the past. I was sad for him for a long time because it was just him and his love of nature. Now I see a difference. He is finally able to have something to call his own and share it with people that are like minded.
He told me yesterday that one of the guys is impressed with him because he doesn’t complain about anything. (Oh, really??? This is Matthew we’re talking about, right??…oopps, did I say that out loud?) He’ll do anything he’s asked to do and things that he’s not asked to do. I told him that was a sign of a good worker and the more he was able to do that the more he would show the people there how passionate he is about the hours he spends there. “I know Mom, ya know, I’d even shovel horse poop with a smile on my face. I hope I can get a REAL job there someday.”
I hope he can, too. Yes, he’s only 17 and yes he still has a lot of growing up to do in many ways but one thing I know about my boy is his love of animals and nature is never going to go away. If anything it will continue and expand to more opportunities, more life lessons and the ability to share his passion with so many more people.
When Mike dropped him off this morning before 9AM Matt told him, “If you don’t hear otherwise have Mom pick me up for 6:00 so I can stay for the final feeding.” You got it bud, you got it.
Until next time…