A little pig goes a long way

NOTE: I had to participate in a retreat for my CivicAction DiverseCity Fellowship. I had to tell a short three-minute story about myself as part of it, as with all the other fellows. I seriously am blessed to be in the presence of 24 other awe-inspiring fellows who can tell you a short three-minute window into their lives. This is my short three-minute window. I have offered a variation of this this story and of course, it is the story of Babe, the gallant sheep-pig I find myself returning to time and time again. Below is an edited three-minute transcript of that tale.

Good morning.

I guess you all want to know a little about me so let me tell you a tale. This is a tale about an unprejudiced heart, and how it changed our valley forever. There was a time not so long ago when pigs were afforded no respect, except by other pigs. They lived their whole lives in a cruel and sunless world.

I am referring to the tale of Babe, the Gallant sheep-pig. To me, this was the right film at the right time at my life — when I was 6 years old. I do not know what you all know about this dark tale but let me give you a brief synopsis of the plot. The farmer, Arthur Hoggett wins this runt at a county fair and thinks that it is destined to be a delicious ham for a delectable Christmas Dinner. This runt is none other than Babe and he saves himself by doing something unexpected — Babe saves the sheep. Thus begins the tale of a the transformation of pig to sheep-pig, an unexpected leader of farm animals that defied all expectations. Yes, it is a rather adorable (shall I say A-DO-RABLE) tale but for me, it was the perfect film because in that gallant pig, I saw a little bit of what I wanted to be. It was what led me to wanting to answer “farmer” when your Grade 1 teacher asks you what do you want to be when you grow up. It led me to swearing off eating pork for a year, a cause of much consternation to my parents who then tricked me into eating it, a horrifying childhood moment but perhaps a story for another time. More importantly, it taught me something that I have come to realize motivates me to do what I do: defying expectations, especially when you are underestimated, destined to be the metaphorical equivalent of Christmas ham to be eaten.

There was something about Babe that I admired. The pig could have resigned its fate to become a delicious piece of ham or it can Baaaa ramm ewe to that, and choose a more interesting path that defied all expectations to the chagrin of those who just did not know.

I can recall a time on my first day of high school, not far from here actually where English was my home room. I remember it like yesterday in which the teacher came to me, wandering around the room, coming up to my desk on the third row to put her hands on my desk to tell the classroom that not everyone is cut out to study the nuances of English literature or Shakespeare, especially if English might not be your first language. Perhaps applied or essential English would be better suited for those who struggle with the English language. I cannot be sure why she looked at me directly as she said that but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that I did not exactly pass for being an Italian-Canadian kid like everyone else in the classroom. she might not remember it but I did. I was a so-so student before then but I do not forget the day when sometime expected me to be the academic equivalent of Christmas ham for their Christmas dinner. Quiet indignatation and rage became my fuel and at some point in the week, when I still had a VCR, I remember turning to the wisdom of Babe. It was then I told myself, Baaaa ramm ewe, sheep be true, to be or not to be, there is no question but to be. I shall prove you wrong because what choice do I have when I am destined to be Christmas ham? It was survival. That is what fuelled me to great academic heights and here I am now. It is only upon looking back can I tell myself: That’ll do pig. That’ll do.

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