18 Feb Kissing pigs
We are glad to present this article written by Donnie Leigh, one of our Westview caregivers who work with our young men in our pig program.
“Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.” One might wonder, in a society that kissed as a greeting and a sign of respect, why Paul found added this encouragement as he concluded his letters to the Romans, Corinthians, and the Thessalonians. “Holy” means to be set aside, sanctified, and consecrated; words concerning relationship. Relationships are often a challenge for young men from hard places because they involve both vulnerability and exposure. So, when our young men can find a place where they feel safe in opening themselves to a relationship, we have a victory. Enter the pigs!
Pigs?! Strange as it may seem, our pig program (and the calf program), provide a safe place for our young men bond with another and to discover the great satisfaction of developing a relationship. At first, all of them simply spend time with their pigs so that the animals get to know their companions; the pigs learn that they can trust their boys to care for them and not hurt them. In time the young men take the pigs out for walks and to train the pigs to take direction to turn and move on a signal from the boy. During this training, the boys learn the need for patience and communication because the pigs don’t understand what is expected of them.
Our young men often find their relationship with their pig strained during this time, as the animal is often confused. Each youth discovers that relationships may be challenged and stressed at times. Eventually, most reach new and stronger bonds with their pigs.
These relationships with the pigs give those of us who are caregivers to these young men an analogy to talk about their relationships with human beings. As our young men learn more about relationships in their work with their pigs, they also learn that they can trust their caregivers and others. Our young men take what they have learned to develop fulfilling relationships with people. The team at Westview works toward that end; that our young charges, growing with time and experience, may then pass on the beauty of loving relationships in their own family.