The Gift of a Chicken Story

Our neighbor is 96 years old and she still goes for a walk several times each week. Very slowly she makes her way along the pasture fence between our properties. Then she turns around and goes home, carefully avoiding the ruts in the dirt road.  I have gone out to greet her only occasionally.

A simple hello always means a commitment to thirty minutes, or more, of conversation. I know that’s not much in the larger scheme of things. And, it means so much to older people when you give them the gift of time. But these days life seems to be all a rush and time is a precious commodity. Often my husband reminds me that I’m not keeping up with everything I have committed to do. I get stingy.

That’s why I’m pleased to share what I’ve learned about another gift we can give each other. It’s the gift of Story. Yes, it takes time. But it’s fun too and it fuels the imagination. Here’s how I learned about it.

Last week, I saw Florene on her walk and knew it was way past time to say hello. It had been weeks since I’d seen her. She deserved a few minutes of chitchat. So I headed out the door. And sure enough she was happy to see me and eager to talk. We visited by the roadside and then I invited her to come and see the new horses in our yard.  She’s a country lady through and through and had hinted that she was wondering about the new equines in the neighborhood.

While I was pointing out the names of the horses, one of our chickens came up to Florene. The hen, who was named Fred by the children, made a throaty cackling sound that tells me she’s happy and curious. Fred circled around Florene’s legs.

It had been years since Florene had spent time with chickens, she said. She bent down to pat Fred on her back and Fred squatted obediently to receive the touch. When Florene looked to me for understanding, I said, “That’s the first time I’ve seen her do that. These are new chickens and they normally avoid most humans. She really seems to trust you.”

Florene chuckled. “Well she’s an awfully cute chicken. I have always liked animals.”

A few minutes later we were walking down the road, and Florene’s daughter was coming out to see why her mother had disappeared.

“Laura dear, you’ll never believe what just happened,” Florene began. “A chicken came right up to me! Judith says she never does that with other people. But that chicken hunkered down to let me pet her. She is so soft and beautiful. You should go see her. It was just wonderful.”

I realized in that moment that the best gifts are so very simple. Maybe the best gift of all is a story. Florene has a new gem of a story about her friend the chicken. It will make her smile for many days. And it was such an easy gift to offer.  All it took was to interpret what she saw. “That chicken runs from people…everyone but you. It must be that the small creature sees beyond wrinkles. Animals know things about people.” All of that came across to Florene.

So many times I have missed the opportunities to give gifts like that. Maybe it’s because I’m not paying attention, I’m rushing around or I’m simply unwilling to give. But I see now that my children need story affirmations like that. My husband needs story affirmations.

For example, our Blue Heeler only “talks” to my husband. It’s amazing to see as the dog sits before him and modulates her voice in conversation. They have regular talks. But it happens often enough that I have taken it for granted. Now I see that telling my husband the story of what I see occurring between him and the dog would be an affirmation, a gift.

I’m going to record the story of my son’s football year–it’s a story about coming into manhood. I want to share the story of my daughter amazing cake award so that she’ll see that all things are possible when you put forth effort.

There are so many stories. And I see now that this is a gift that goes beyond meaningless chitchat chewing up time. It is minutes spent in observing and sharing. It is an image that can be preserved and savored.

About Judith Costello

A certified art therapist, Judith is the author of numerous articles and books on parenting and child development, including Zen Parenting. She writes from Moriarty, New Mexico.

0 thoughts on “The Gift of a Chicken Story

  1. There’s a great message in this really heart warming story. My own Dad is 91 years old and loves it when folks stop by to visit his home in Holmes County, Ohio. He loves to hear all the stories that folks are willing to take the time to share with him.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Judith. We all need to take more time to visit our elderly neighbors, share our garden produce if you have “extra”, bring your pets. All of this is so much appreciated by folks who are alone.

    So here’s my story from about 15 years ago…… I have a metal detector and my elderly neighbor John Scanlan invited me to “hunt” in their centuries old barn yard in Medina County, Ohio. After searching with no luck at all, I set my detector down to give my good friend a hug goodbye. As I did that, the metal detector beeped!! My curiorsity got the best of me so I dug a very shallow hole and found a beautiful solid gold locket with a bird engraved on the front and a tiny diamond in it’s eye. John casually told me to keep it because they have “enough junk” in their house.

    Of course I couldn’t do that. I showed the piece to his wife Faye (then about 80 years old) who grew up on this farm. She started to cry and held the golden piece to her heart. She said this lovely locket was her 16th birthday present from her parents. She lost it shortly after she got it!!

    As I’ve ben told, there was a huge barn/dance hall fire many years ago in this barn yard, when all was destroyed. The earth was moved, filled, graded, etc. etc. after the fire. How this locket remained only about 1 inch below the surface of the grass is a miracle. Faye handed the locket back to me with her sweet gracious smile and said “You found it. It’s now your’s”….. Again, I couldn’t do that. With tears in my own eyes, I handed her back the lovely keepsake and asked her to give it to one of her grand daughters. She did.

    My wonderful friend Faye has passed on now, and her memories of how she loved my visits will forever be in my heart.

    PS: It’s this dear old lfriend who taught me how to butcher chickens, boil pure maple syrup into delicious candy. Every year at Halloween we’d find three pumpkins for my children magically deliverd to our porch steps…. we knew it was John who came to share his happy garden gourds!

    Thanks again for a wonderfully inspiring story. I truly enjoy the Lehman’s Front Porch Newlsletter.