Sunday, January 04, 2009


A Single Snowflake

My first true love was a man named Todd. A big, burly man. A mountain climber. Huge shoulders and massive chest. Legs of steel. Full beard and the softest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Soft spoken with the kindest heart on this earth. We would stop the Jeep on the side of the road if a bird flew too close to the hood. And we would spend time looking for the bird.

Todd lived for the climbs that he took in the Grand Tetons. Todd loved the mountains. In fact, he died in the mountains. One quiet summer day back here in Minnesota when we were quietly sitting on the banks of Lake Nokomis, Todd asked me if I realized that “it was the weight of a single snowflake that caused an avalanche? It snows and snows and the snow just keeps piling up and then suddenly one more snowflake falls on the mountainside. And the weight of that single snowflake would cause the entire snow pack on the side of the mountain to let loose.”

I’ve been thinking of Todd a lot lately. Partly because I miss him and wonder where my life would be if the mountains had not claimed him. And partly because some thirty-plus years later, I see the wisdom and the truth in his declaration of the weight of a single snowflake. Young as he was, Todd was wise well beyond those twenty-some years. The mountains had taught that young man a lifetime of wisdom. Yes, Todd, a single snowflake can change the world around it. A single, little snowflake…..

The path of my life and the events that have recently surrounded me have reinforced to me that it is indeed the weight of a single snowflake – the result of a single act – that has profound impacts on the world around us. A single snowflake – a single act – will change the world around it.

On Christmas Eve day, a Ram pickup pulled in to the driveway here at Refuge Farms and two ladies were here to donate to our Missions. I was thrilled. Who were they? How had they heard of us? Grateful for any donation to support our Missions of rescue, I was thrilled and elated that this fraternity would consider our cause a worthy cause.

In the course of our conversation, a mention was made of a family in a neighboring community that had recently lost the Father. A family with young children. Mostly young girls. And a working dairy farm left behind. The Mother was doing her best but my heart swelled at the thought of being alone at Christmas. Of being single without your consent and faced with raising and supporting a houseful of children. How would she manage? How would she ever learn to smile again? How would she manage the pain of her grief and her worry and the load that was now on her narrow shoulders? My heart was heavy for her.

The fraternity ladies and I said our good-byes. But the thought of the family stayed in my mind. Throughout the evening, I found myself pondering the Mother’s burden and thought of what it was that could be done. It was like a single snowflake resting on my mind. The snowflake of a casual comment identifying a need if only something could be done…

Walking through the falling snow out to the barn that evening, I felt the snow landing on my face and looked at the snow that had landed on my barn gloves. We need to reach out and do something. We must give back. And so a simple posting to the Refuge Farms bulletin board about the family was made and the actions soon began. Clothes were gathered. Food was donated. Special toys and books for the entire family were purchased. Cash donations came in. And even a special, personal gift for the Mother was gently placed in to a gift bag. Our snowflake hearts needed to create an avalanche. We needed to reach out and give back.

The delivery was made to the family on New Year’s Day. The Mother was expecting us but the size of our delivery was not expected. Not by her or by us! We left boxes and boxes of groceries. Bags of new books and toys for the children. Bags of new gloves and mittens and socks for all. And boxes of school supplies. We left a frozen ham and a frozen turkey. We left warehouse-sized supplies of paper towels, Kleenex, and yes, even toilet paper.

But more than anything, we left hugs. True, wrap-your-arms-around-me hugs. The kind of hugs where you can literally feel the strength pouring from one body to another. The Mother was weary. Her face showed me that. Her eyes were soon wet with appreciation and gratitude. And she saw in some of eyes of us the eyes of recognition. Time will heal, we told her. We won’t forget you, we told her. Take care of yourself to be strong for what’s in front of you, we told her.

The weight of a single snowflake caused the whole mountainside to let loose. A single comment created an enormous outpouring of support and caring and goods to a family – and a Mother – in need.

Perhaps the most significant snowflake in my life has been the simple challenge given to me by Andy those years ago. “Take this horse, Sandy, and make a difference in somebody’s life with it.” A simple statement. A challenge that could be taken or ignored. A single little snowflake put out there to melt or to create an avalanche.

It was my decision to make and from that little snowflake of Andy’s an entire avalanche was created. Hundreds of horses have been rescued. Hundreds of Humans have enjoyed those horses and some have even been rescued themselves. We have done good works for years now. All because of a single snowflake from a single man to a single woman.

Andy’s intentions were clear to me: Use your horses, Sandy, to heal yourself and then share that healing with others. Use your life’s experiences to reach out to those in grief, those in stress, those battling disease. Those that are alone or those that have family but still find themselves alone. Reach out through the faces and breath of your horses and offer their healing to those that come.

The weight of that snowflake has been enormous. That single little snowflake has changed my life. It has totally redirected my life’s purpose and I can tell you honestly that Andy’s single little snowflake has caused me to find my life’s purpose. Rescuing horses is my purpose for living. I know that. From the very center of my soul.

And the people that surround me are snowflakes in themselves. They work. They give when help is needed. They give of their hands, their minds, their resources to allow this facility to continue to rescue. Some of these human snowflakes I have never met but I feel as though we are family over email and through cards and letters. Andy’s single little snowflake has created an avalanche of like-minded beings that are willing to work and give and sweat and worry and take risks all for the sake of saving a life.

“And the weight of that single snowflake would cause the entire snow pack on the side of the mountain to let loose,”
Todd had said. Andy created the snowflake and the avalanche has begun. Your were right, Todd. A single snowflake can make a difference. And we have, my dear man. We certainly have.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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