The Chicken Chronicles: Penelope Teaches Us About Forgiveness
The New Kid in Town
How many of you reading this changed schools when you were young? If you were one who did, and there is a good chance that you are, then you understand the difficulty that accompanies such a change. The new kid is naturally the outcast. The new kid is outside of established cliques. The new kid must prove himself. The new kid must endure the whispers and the name-calling, and the new kid must work his/her way up the pecking order and that is often a difficult climb.
Let me introduce you to Penelope, the last of our six chickens who reside at 1828 Fir Street N.E. in Olympia, Washington. Penelope was not one of the original flock we obtained nine months ago. She was a replacement about two months after the initial purchase, and she has had a tough go of it since joining our family.
Take a close look at her and I’m sure you will find it difficult to believe that she would be an outcast. She is a very pretty bird, tri-colored with good form and stature, certainly no ugly duckling. She has egg-laying talent and rarely misses a day of laying, so no slacker this girl; and yet she has suffered through many of the same situations you experienced when you changed schools at an early age.
Experiencing Prejudice Early On
Within hours of introducing Penelope to the general population, it was apparent that the others did not cotton to this stranger. She was chased away from the food bowls. She was pecked in passing like some two-legged piñata. At times she was denied entry into the coop at night when it was time to bed down.
This kind of exclusion and tormenting continued for a good five months, finally culminating in a systematic attack at night, in the coop, where Penelope was pecked by the others, resulting in her losing many of her feathers and having open sores and scars. In truth we considered putting her down because she was having such a tough go of it.
And then, quite suddenly, the tormenting ended. Whatever rite of passage that needed to be lived had passed, and as I write this today Penelope has taken her place among the other five and no longer suffers through the gauntlet. Why it ended I do not know. I suspect, like is the case with so many humans, Penelope just needed to pay her dues and establish her place.
A Praise-worthy Bird
I’ll say this for Penelope: not once did I hear her badmouth her adopted siblings. Not once did she raise her talons in anger and strike out at the others, and not once did she come running for help from the humans who protect her. She simply paid her dues and carried on with life. She could have screamed about the injustice of it all. She could have rightfully claimed prejudice and unfair treatment, and she could have struck back out of anger and frustration, but she did none of those things.
What she did do was continue to do her egg-laying job. What she did do was slowly earn respect without demanding that it be given to her. What she did do was give respect even where it was not warranted.
As I write this I find myself wishing that our country had about 320 million Penelopes working the jobs and prowling the Halls of Congress.
Another in this series
- The Chicken Chronicles: Minerva Boldly Goes Where Others Dare To Dream
A lesson from a chicken for those of you who ever dreamed of greater things in life.
We Had a Chat
Penelope and I sat down for a one-on-one discussion of her situation, and I’d like to share the results of that talk. Since I don’t speak chicken, Bev will serve as my interpreter.
ME: Penelope, thanks for taking time to chat with me. How do you like life in our backyard?
PENELOPE: Bill, thank you for talking to me. Life is good. I appreciate the food given to me, and the fair working environment. I love Bev and can’t wait to jump into her lap at the end of the day. All in all I think this is a great yard to live in.
ME: I’m glad to hear that. Now, I want to take you back about five or six months ago, to the time when you first came to live with us. Tough times, those, yes?
PENELOPE: Bill, they were tough times. I had to leave my brothers and sisters and join this rather raucous crowd, and they were not exactly welcoming, but I got through it. Did I mention that life is good?
ME: Let’s talk about that some more. No, the rest of this group was not very welcoming. How did you manage? How did you keep from losing your temper and quite frankly, why aren’t you bitter now?
PENELOPE: Sheez, Bill, get real. I mean seriously. I have relatives who were raised just for meat and were slaughtered by the time they were a year old. They lived in cages and horribly crowded conditions, and they were forced to eat genetically modified food. Now those were tough conditions! Compared to them I have it made here. Our food is organic, we have the whole yard to roam in, and two loving owners who treat us like pets. As for the others who had a little “fun” with me early on, they were just doing what others always do when there is a newcomer, and I don’t blame them. We all have to find our place in society and we all have to earn trust and respect.
ME: Well, I have to tell you, I greatly appreciate the job that you do. You lay some of the prettiest dark brown eggs I have ever seen, and you are always so pleasant to be around. It is a pleasure having you with us.
PENELOPE: The pleasure is all mine, Bill, and thank you. I’m loving every minute of my time here. The tough times are behind me, and now I just want to be a contributing member of our community here.
ME: Thanks, Penelope, for taking the time to talk with me
And so It Goes in Our Backyard
“I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man's self-respect is a sin.”
Six hens strong and functioning as one. You have met them all now. Perhaps one day they will reappear in a children’s book. I have enjoyed introducing them to you and I hope you enjoyed it as well. It’s interesting what you can learn from a chicken, isn’t it? I mean they are supposed to be these stupid birds with puny brains and no personality, but it turns out they are distinctive and quite capable of teaching us humans a lesson or two about life.
Like Penelope….life is good….you have to earn respect….I want to become a contributing member of society…..lessons that are eternal and apply to us all, lessons that came from the new kid on the block who understood that we all have to pay our dues and await our opportunities.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”