I learned how to be a follower when I was about seven years old. My older siblings were in 4-H and showed calves at the county fair every summer. Part of their responsibilities in getting ready for show-time was to teach those calves how to be led around a ring in front of a judge. The animals had to be taught the commands for walking forward, walking backward, stopping, and standing still.
Early in the summer, my sister would put the halter on her Shorthorn calf and they would go for long walks down the gravel country road. My job was to walk behind the critter with a stick in my hand and whack her rear end if she stopped walking. (Clarification: I’m referring to the rear end of the calf, not my sister.) Even though I had to watch my step, I remember thinking that it was kind of fun. I got to spend an afternoon with my big sister and smack a cow every so often. We would sing our hearts out walking down that back road.
“If you wanna be a Badger, then come along with me…”
“by the bright shining light, by the light of the moon…”
By the end of the summer, my services were no longer needed. The bovine was adept at showing off her stuff. My sister was pretty good, too. One year her calf was awarded Reserved Grand Champion at the State Fair.
All this to say: while I’m learning the art of becoming a follower, I may need someone pulling me along, showing me which road to take and how to walk in it. But I also may need someone coming behind me, making sure I don’t lag — prodding me with a loving whack.