July 4

Eating With the Chickens

July 4, 2011

Personal Growth

A mother eagle failed to return to her nest, where a single hatchling screamed for his supper. Eventually he jumped from the nest and fell to the forest floor, where a chicken found him and took him home to her barnyard.

The young eagle, Fred, was raised as a chicken, so naturally he assumed that he was a chicken. He learned to peck at the ground for seed and sit in the coop at night for safety. Occasionally he saw birds flying above him in the sky, but he thought nothing of it.

One day an eagle flew overhead and called to Fred, who thought, "Wow, that's just like the sound I make when I'm calling to my mother." Fred had always felt bad about his voice, which was so very different from the other chickens.

Then Fred realized that he could actually understand the cries of the bird overhead, whose name was Mort.

"Hey, you," Mort said.

"Who are you talking to?" Fred asked. He was thoroughly intrigued, because even though he had learned to speak Chicken, it seemed that he had some inborn ability to recognize Eagle.

"You," Mort answered.

"What do you want?" Fred asked as he rotated his upturned head, following Mort's circling path.

"What are you doing down there?"

"Eating. What does it look like?"

"Yeah, yeah, I get that you're eating. But why down there with the chickens?"

"Duh, because I AM a chicken?"

"Ever noticed that when you talk, you sound different from all the other chickens?"

"Yeah, I have."

"And have you ever noticed your reflection in the water dish before you push your head into it?"

"Yeah."

"What do you think? Do you look like the other chickens?"

"No, not really. Always felt kind of bad about that."

"Notice how at night you take up like five times the space on the perch as the other chickens do?"

"Yeah, I have noticed that. Hard to miss."

"So listen close, kid. You're NOT a chicken."

"Come on."

"No kidding. You're an eagle."

"No."

"Yep. Just like me. Remember that reflection in the water dish? Who does that look like? Me or the chicken next to you?"

Fred was stunned. This would explain a lot, like why he always had more trouble picking up seeds than the other chickens, why the other chickens often looked at him strangely, why he always felt just a little out of place.

"Okay," Fred said, "so I might not look like the other chickens. So I might be different from what I thought. What are you suggesting?"

"Spread your wings."

Fred had learned not to do that, because when he did it in the chicken coop, he knocked everybody on the perch off onto the floor, and they didn't like that much. But he was fascinated by this eagle, so he was willing to give it a try. He stepped away from the chickens--so he wouldn't knock anybody over--and spread his wings. He had to admit, it was pretty impressive. His wings were like a tent compared to those of his brothers and sisters.

"Now, flap them up and down," Mort said, "very fast."

Fred began tentatively, but he found that something deep inside helped him with the speed and rhythm of the movement--like he was meant to do this--and in seconds he lifted off the ground. After he'd elevated a few feet, the height became frightening, so he stopped flapping and fell to the earth in a heap. "That didn't work so well," he said.

"Keep going. Don't stop. Your reflexes will kick in and help you with the details."

Fred began flapping again, and this time he persisted past his fears. Rising higher, he drifted toward a collision with the barn, but somehow he knew how to turn and avoid disaster. He just kept moving, and soon he was flying next to Mort.

"Nice job, kid," Mort said. Smiling from ear to ear, he added, "This is what eagles do."

"Wow, I'm amazed. And convinced."

For hours Mort taught Fred the intricacies of flying and hunting, and during one of their jaunts Fred noticed another eagle in a barnyard miles from his former home. Then he saw another. "What are they doing down there with the chickens?" he asked.

"Same as you. They got confused. They think they're chickens."

"Why don't they just fly?"

"Like I said, they think they're chickens."

"I'll go down and tell them they're eagles."

"Go ahead, but I've tried. Lots of us have tried. They won't listen."

"Really? That seems kind of stupid."

"Yeah, it does, kind of. But you didn't listen either."

"What do you mean? Of course I listened. I'm up here, aren't I?"

"Sure, but only after we called out to you dozens of times."
"No, you didn't."

"So you think I'm making this up? Why would I do that?"

"I don't remember you calling me."

"I believe you. You were so occupied with being a chicken that you couldn't see or hear anything else. We flew overhead, but you didn't look up. We called to you, but the clucking of the chickens was too distracting for you. Every once in a while we'd even fly close, but all the chickens just scattered, because they were afraid."

"You know, I can remember some of those times. I ran because everybody else did."

"So, we tried, kid, but you just couldn't see us or hear us."

"Wow, that's kind of crazy."

"Yeah, that's one way of describing it."

"I like being an eagle better."

"Makes sense, since you ARE an eagle."

"Some things about being an eagle seem harder, though. Like, nobody feeds you. You have to work kind of hard to get your food."

"True. But it's more fun. And you're getting old enough to begin finding a partner. Believe me, you would have found that difficult with the chickens."

"I see what you mean. I'm glad I didn't try. I'm glad I'm an eagle. It's better than being a chicken."

"Oh, I don't know that eagles are better than chickens, but if you are an eagle, it's certainly better to be an eagle than a chicken. Always works better to be what you are. Happier."

We're all eagles, but nearly all of us were raised in a barnyard, and we've found it frustrating to peck in the dirt and to communicate with the chickens in a language that didn't feel quite right. We want more, but we don't know what it is. In most cases, we need the help of other eagles, who can help us discover who we are. All we have to do is listen and have faith in what they say.

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