Our two-week stay on the Kiyuna Dairy Farm is now coming to an end and this experience has been much more impactful than I could have imagined. For two weeks, we not only got to experience the pleasure and fulfillment which comes from completing a day of physical labor with a clear purpose (i.e., keeping the cows fed and producing milk), but we also had the privilege of living with an Okinawan couple. We shared meals with them three times a day, and over the course of the two weeks developed a strong sense of mutual affection, even love, for each other.
Okasan being “Mom” in action (she has 5 daughters)
Although we had initially come into their lives as “hired hands” (volunteering to work on their farm 6-7 hours per day in exchange for free room and board), they took us in as members of their family. This is an experience that money simply could never buy, and it’s ironic that this experience cost us virtually nothing. We gave of ourselves in terms of physical labor, but received so much in return.
Values are at the core
In addition to the cows and their milk, which provide sustenance for the Kiyuna family, the farm has a number of other animals. The two goats, a boar, roosters and rabbits don’t produce anything of financial value for the farm. What they provide, however, is a connection to nature for the many school children and families who regularly visit the farm to see first-hand where milk comes from, make some butter and interact with animals. Okasan (“Mom”), the clear leader in the husband-wife owned farm, wants this to be a place where everyone who visits can experience a connection with nature.
This came up over dinner one evening when I asked Okasan and Otosan (“Dad”) what values form the basis for how they live. I have been working through this issue for myself in recent months, and just in the past week have been delving into the topic of values with a coaching client. In the case of my client, who was trying to decide what to do with his business, I had asked him to articulate his core values so that he could then see if the way he was living and making decisions about his business were aligned with those values. It sounds simple, but often it’s not our values which drive what we do, but rather our ego or expectations of others/society, fears (the list can go on) which either drive or get in the way. I had a deep sense, however, that this was not the case with Okasan and Otosan, and I wanted to know what their values were. So I asked…
We had a lengthy conversation about values, but two words stuck out to me in terms of what drives this lovely couple.
Dreams and Sharing
“Everyone must have a dream”, is what Okasan said to my intial question about values. Something to strive for and hope for in life is a core value for her. This is similar, I believe, to having a purpose (or ‘ikigai’ in Japanese), which I wrote about in my previous post from the farm.
A few days later, Okasan shared about her plans to develop a plot of land into a small sweet potato patch and a parking area so that more people could come to the farm and experience nature by picking sweet potatoes. This goal is aligned with the other key value she spoke about over dinner – sharing. She and Otosan both want to share the gift of nature animals, which they believe have a healing power for people, with as many others as possible.
In the two weeks we’ve been at the farm, Okasan and Otosan have hosted a group of about 100 school children (photo above), two expat families from Hong Kong on holiday, and a group of downs-syndrome children. And during our dinner discussion Otosan somewhat emotionally pointed out how our work on the farm has also helped them in their mission to share their world of nature and animals with others.
What values are driving how you are living your life?
Galina and I have been blessed these past two weeks to see a husband-wife couple living out their values together. What a great example for us at the beginning of this Lifelong Journey.
This farm work experience has been so impactful that we intend to seek out similar work-stay opportunities in the other ‘Blue Zone’ locations we visit. We have experienced so much in these past two weeks and gained insights both into Okinawa culture and ourselves, that we feel that even if we had to leave the country now we would already have had a very fulfilling time.
Fortunately, however, it’s not yet time to leave Okinawa. We will now move on to the small village of Ogimi, known as the “Longevity Village” due to the high concentration of centenarians living there. Okasan has helped us arrange a home stay there with a friend.