Today I read this to help kick off this year’s theme of inclusion. It was my first time reading in front my entire school to an audience ranging from six to sixty.
I’d like to tell you a story that’s not my story actually, but the story of someone who is very close to me – someone very close to many of you in this room as well. This someone wrote a letter and asked that I read it to you today, on this stage. And that’s what I’m going to do.
But first I should clarify that the someone is more of a something – a kind of bird to be totally honest. It’s a letter written by Tiny the runt chicken from our farm. She worked on it until late last night and gave it to me this morning. Keep in mind that what she handed me was a strip of barn wood covered with a bunch of beakmarks, and it takes a lot of concentration to translate it into English. The translation may not be exact, but here goes…
Greetings! I’m pecking this out way past roosting time so sorry if it’s sloppy. (it was) The other hens are asleep and ALL of them snore. Vibrates the whole house. It’s very difficult to sleep actually. I’m not complaining though. They are all lovely ladies and we do enjoy each others’ company. It wasn’t always that way, however. I’ll get back to that.
I would like to pass along a few words of advice as you begin your new school year. And to do that I will to tell you my story.
As you probably recall, I was born last Spring inside the warm incubator in the hallway. Let me tell you: as a chicken, one expects to pop out of the egg and see one’s mother hen. So it was quite surprising when I finally got that egg cracked open (no easy task!) and realized that I was in a box surrounded by a bunch of children. However, in a short amount of time I became very at ease in your hands, and even started to look forward to your many visits.
But I also soon discovered that I was very different than all the other chicks. Oh sure, there were different feather colors – black, white, yellow, etc. – but the thing that made me different was much bigger than that. The big difference was that I was tiny. So tiny that the others would often shove me out of the way at feeding time. Being excluded in this way made it very challenging to eat, and drink. I was often hungry. So I stayed very tiny, relatively squeaking. (She probably meant speaking).
Thankfully, some of you made me feel included by feeding me from your hands, away from the flock where I was safe. It felt so good to be held high like that. So tall like I was soaring above the others. I think some of them were a little jealous, in fact. You can tell a jealous cluck from other kinds of clucks. It’s a little higher pitched and has a little wobble at the end.”CLU-AWWWWwwwUH.” Not exactly that, but you get the idea.
Anyway, we were all very happy to be moved to the farm and into some fresh air. But it didn’t take long before the other hens were bullying me around just like old times. I started to grow a little but so did they. And they got HUGE! But I stayed tiny, relatively shrieking I mean.
Time and time again, who would give me a hand? You guys! I was always the first to be picked up, and you gave me tons of special treats and it was great. The other hens saw that I was “in” with the kids so they appointed me the official Asker of Favors. I asked you for fresh straw – boom, fresh straw. I asked for extra tomatoes from the greenhouse – bam, tomato city. A juicy worm after a rainstorm – splat, rainin’ worms baby.
The thing I want to leave you with is this: See, we chickens don’t always have a choice between kindness and cruelty. We’re animals, and we act out of instink. (Insinct, I assume). We peck each other and try to starve each other because we simply can’t help it sometimes. It’s what you might call “bird brain”. But you have what we chickens call “beautiful brain”, because your brains are always creating things, and solving problems, and cracking jokes to pass the time. You have the ability to choose whether to treat others with kindness or not. And if someone is smaller, or weaker, or just plain differenter than you, you can choose to treat them even kinderer. Are you with me? Are you picking up what I’m laying down?
Of course, your big beautiful brains get you into trouble too, and sometimes make you do silly things. And for the record, yes we think you are hilarious and yes those are clucks of ecstatic laughter you hear most of the time.
I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom to send you off to another best year ever. Frankie the goat leaned her head through the fence and said to me: “NAAAAAAaaaaAAAAAHHHH NAAAHHHH!”, which roughly translates to “always look out for the little guy, and together we will thrive”.
With great affection,