It constantly amazes me the life lessons I learn on the farm. I can look at something, ponder how it looks, works, walks or talks, and the next thing I know, I am walking out of the pasture with a lesson on how to live a better life. Take a cow, for instance.

A cow is considered a ‘ruminant’, which on a base level, means that its stomach is built to digest poorly digestible foods. It has four stomachs, and part of that digestion process means that a cow will also ‘chew its cud’. So, let’s think about it for a minute.   A cow eats a wad of grass from the ground. It chews it and it goes into a ‘holding cell’, waiting to be re-chewed as cud. From there, the food travels through the four stomachs.   In the process, nutrients are absorbed by the cow while the rest drops out the back end. What is left in a pile on the ground is actually an excellent source of nutrients for your garden. The manure is broken down in the ground and helps to fertilize the fruits and vegetables that bring humans the vitamins and nutrients that they need to survive.

Of course, this is a tremendously simplified version of how a cow’s digestive system works. But take a minute to simplify it even more. Grass goes in, is temporarily stored, brought back out to chew on, sent back in to go through four stomachs, then out again to form a rich compost.

Now. Let’s compare that to our thoughts, mental process and words. Have we ever considered that our words can either be sharp and deadly weapons, or a gentle and soothing balm? It may serve us well to take a lesson from the cow. Just before we are ready to open our mouths to speak, we may need to take a minute or two to think about them. Once we have considered the actual words our thoughts have chosen, we may need to send them through a ‘bovine’ process: The thought arrives in our brain. Our mind takes those words and puts them in a temporary holding cell. Once they are all together, then we take them back out to re-examine them. Are they designed to hurt or help? To break down or to build up? To slay or to offer life? From there, we send them back through the mental process to glean the most ‘nutrition’ from the words, before allowing them to come out of our mouths.

Randy has a saying. “Words are like bullets. Once you shoot, you can’t get words or bullets back in the gun.” He is right. If we seriously consider our words long before we ever speak them, we may see that what we want to say isn’t really the best words to use. Instead, throughout that ‘digestion’ process, we need to find other words to say – words that can turn a bad situation into a good one, or at least keep it at a stalemate, and not escalate it into a horrible thing.   Words that are laced with kindness, compassion, mercy and understanding. The same words we would prefer to hear.

This is just a little ‘Food for Thought’. Next time you are confronted with a situation where words are needed, take a life lesson from the ruminant family. It might just be worth your while to learn to ‘chew cud’.