Foxes and Hens, Oh My

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Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.
― Eleanor Roosevelt

A year ago, we had fifteen white and black and brown and speckled chickens.  A year ago we had more eggs than we knew what to do with.  Most of the hens had names and a few had personalities, particularly the girls at the bottom of the pecking order. Oftentimes Sideways Sue, Joy or Autumn would race across the tall grass to waddle between my feet in anticipation of a special snack. Doting on the flock, I accounted for their safety throughout the days – okay, five black – check; five white – check; two speckled – check; three old – check. 

Foxes are not friends of folks who have a penchant for small farms. Their sly and crafty ways exasperate chicken farmers, no love lost between the two parties. We have been fortunate, our free-range flock unbothered, pecking through the yard with joy and abandon. We became cocky in our ignorance, failing to protect the hens from our customary predators.

And now our flock has whittled to a meager and mighty four. The other day, during lunch, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, the dart of Father Fox. Upon perusal of the yard I found the telltale sign – a left-behind lump of our last black hen, floppy feathers ruffling in the wind.

I have always loved the sight of a fox in the wild with their assured lope. But when one shows up in the yard, there is no more majestic and wonderful, only pest and menace and enemy.

I wanted justice.

In my city of Longmont, a proposal was put forward this week to name us a sanctuary city.  If you’ve read my blog, for any length of time, I’m sure you can guess where I stand. Eric and I attended the meeting and listened to a third of the sixty people share either their support or opposition to the motion. I took in the standing-room-only crowd, scanning, absorbing, noticing the tense energy in my belly. Many demonstrated their support by wearing red. Many were not in favor.

The disagreements fell upon anticipated lines. Most against the measure cited the importance of law and enforcing proper procedure for immigrants. It was oft stated that each person should do the adequate work to obtain legal status, just like the rest of us (I know I had questions, too). Others discussed the importance of changing laws, the daunting and difficult path immigrants must face to become approved was discussed at great length. Many shared stories and delighted in the merits of our community, citing diversity as an asset. The evening was educational and edifying and I will admit to rolling my eyes only twice.

A few thoughts and questions badgered me throughout the evening: How many people know, really know, an undocumented individual or family? How many of us can attest to  the horrific conditions from which some have had to flee, knowing intense suffering or death was inevitable for the children?  I wonder if we privileged, have a remote understanding of this depth of terror. When we subscribe to the rule of law, without acceptance of great tension and nuance, what happens to love?

After this disaster of sacrificing so many chickens I was no longer amenable to foxes. I didn’t like them. I hated them. Unfortunately, for my firm opinions and me, my daughter happened upon an awe-inspiring sight while walking the neighborhood at dusk. In the middle of the road, Mama Fox stood guard while her six cubs bounded and played and dive-bombed one other. Each pup beautiful and perfect with shiny, fuzzy coat and lean body. The four red and two black youngsters held no concern for our presence, knowing full well they were safe and protected by their alert mama. With her keen eye simultaneously fixed upon the two of us and the exact location of each one of her frisky babes, I couldn’t help but wonder if she and I were more alike than I imagined. I suspect she, like me, worries about how to provide, how to grow and protect her hungry and thriving babies.  I held her gaze and gave her my best, knowing I now had to dwell in a new tension – how to protect my chickens while also holding hope for this young family.

There are many people in this country who do not share the same privilege I do – white, straight, Christian, American born, abled. And those of us with this privilege need to spend a little less time afraid, standing in our truth and righteousness, and a lot more time seeking to understand another. I wonder if we might discover we have far more in common than we realize and a new generosity and empathy may emerge in our communities, churches, homes.

Our unifying language is story. Tell me your story, remind me of your struggles, your suffering and joy, your hopes and fears. Maybe we can find the common thread that cinches us together in faithful and loving community.

I hope Longmont’s City Council votes in favor of the measure. And I hope those in opposition will strive to love and know their neighbor. And those of us in support will go beyond words, wearing red, and speaking for three minutes so that we all together may participate in complete and beautiful and diverse communion.

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