I believe in what Lily Pig did. You haven’t met Lily Pig. In fact, you probably haven’t met any 4-year-old, 800-pound pigs. That’s because any pig you’ve met, if in fact you have met any pigs at all, was probably less than 6 months old, and under 250 pounds. That’s slaughter age and weight, for farm pigs. You couldn’t have met Lily Pig, in her four-year-old, 800-pound glory, unless you’ve visited her at a sanctuary in Northern California. I, on the other hand, get to see Lily Pig every day.
Lily ended up here, at the sanctuary, because she executed one brave, defiant act almost four years ago. On a terrifying, cramped truck headed for the slaughterhouse, packed in with her squealing brothers and sisters, Lily saw her one chance at something better, and jumped. She was rescued by the folks driving behind the truck on the freeway, and brought here, where she’ll spend the rest of her life in safety, until she passes away from old age, or until her relatively tiny pig legs give way under the massive body given her by genetic breeding.
I believe in Lily because she has earned her matriarchal spot in the pig herd through tried and true effort. While the other pigs in the barn, God bless them, have been rescued from certain demise, Lily saved herself, and despite not being the oldest piggy there, and being almost tied in weight, for her is reserved the best nap spot in the barn, the first choice of daily feed, and the respect of every porcine friend in the group. It seems to be an unspoken rule: Lily has earned her place here. Let her go first.
I can’t compare my life to Lily’s. Knock on wood, I will probably never ride a sweltering, noisy terrifying truck headed for my own slaughter. But it’s so easy to get caught in my own momentum, to feel that life has control of me, instead of vice versa. It feels almost impossible, at times, to break through the mess and remember that I can choose. At any time, I can take a chance, jump off, risking broken bones, severe bruises and a few accidents, but it could very well be worth it. Lily jumped because she sensed, somehow, without ever knowing that our sanctuary was waiting for her, that the risk was worth it.
I never thought I would be a Tattoo Person. But as I leave, with dragging feet, my time at the sanctuary, I find myself compelled to etch these lessons into my skin, so I can never, never forget, even if only through the smiling regret I might have in 50 years at my impulsive youth. So I am designing my Lily Pig tattoo: a small scene in which we see Lily Pig lying in her favourite spot in the Pig Barn, always with a contented smile, enjoying the fruits of her one brave, defiant act. And underneath, on a banner, the word “Jump!”
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.