This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.
There are times when Amelia totally steals my heart away, as if she is the only chicken I have ever had or ever will have. She is both “sure things” and “possibilities” all wrapped up in one delightful feathery package.
While I am away at work, my chickens are secure inside their large covered run and coop. They have plenty of room to play, take dust baths, and simply sit and watch the world go by. But their favorite time is when I come home and open their expanded fenced-in backyard playground.
They can hardly keep their feet still long enough for me to undo the safety latch. Everyone is focused on my hand and the latch. The most important question in that moment is “Will it still open this time?” Once they hear the scraping metal sound they have been waiting for, they all charge out in different directions and into a world full of possibilities.
Most evenings, even when they don’t get to visit their backyard playground, I give them some corn kernels. It is my way of making sure no one goes to bed hungry or wanting.
One evening, I gave them their corn just before opening up the gate to their playground. Everyone quickly forgot about the corn.
They ignored what was a sure thing and went after what was a possibility. They trusted the corn would still be there after they explored in their playground. They pursued the chance, just the slight possibility, of finding an earthworm or a bug.
But then Amelia did what Amelia does best. She broke “the rules” of what you would expect in the most adorable way. While everyone else was scratching around for what might be found in the backyard, she slipped back into the coop to get some corn.
She gave me that look of, “You know what I’m doing, but you won’t tell anyone, will you?”
I winked at her to let her know her secret was safe. While everyone else was hunting for a possibility, she was taking advantage of a sure thing.
She went back and forth between hunting in their playground and getting corn from their run area. After she had enjoyed enough of both, she settled down into a cozy spot at my feet, quite content.
“Amelia, what made you different from the others this evening?”
“Yes, it was more than just cleverness. What made you do both things back and forth like that? You know, hunting for bugs and gathering up corn.”
Amelia thought about it for a while. “Cleverness” would have been a simple answer, but we both knew there was more to it than just being clever.
“It’s because my heart is free.” She said this as if testing out how it would sound for the first time.
“What makes your heart free?”
It felt like we were exploring new territory, just like being in a new backyard, just like scratching around to discover something wildly exciting.
“Being thankful, I think. Yes, if anything does it, it would be thankfulness. Not being thankful for someone or something puts your own heart in a cage.”
Amelia seemed to have surprised even herself with this answer because it meant she was the only one who could keep her world small.
We both sat there, thinking this over. Usually it is someone else taking our freedom from us that makes our world small, but this idea was different.
Eventually Amelia spoke again.
“When you are thankful for everything, it’s like there really isn’t a difference between the corn and the bugs. It’s all the same.”
“All the same?”
“We know you give us the corn. It’s a gift. Sometimes we think we are getting the bugs for ourselves, but we aren’t, not really. We forget you give us the opportunity to hunt for bugs. That’s a gift too.”
“And realizing that is what makes your heart free?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so. Just being thankful. Then it’s all the same. No matter what you have or don’t have. No matter where you are or aren’t.”
As the light became dimmer, the others came to get some of the remaining corn kernels before heading up to their coop for the night. No one seemed to notice there was less corn than earlier when they had gone out to their playground to explore and hunt.
Amelia was the last to go up as usual.
“Even you are a gift, aren’t you, Amelia? You are a gift to me.”
“Just as you are a gift to me.”
With that, she flew up into the coop to join the others for the night.
It was one of the last deep conversations we would have before she would go off to find out if she could be lost and not afraid. Maybe she was getting both of us ready for that day.
My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) made me aware of the power of thankfulness.
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