My daughter, one of the most gifted writers I know, served two weeks in Thailand last year with her husband, Charlie. They served those caught in sex trafficking there. She posted something on her Facebook one morning that brought me to tears. As you read it let your heart be touched.
I found him under the wide, leafy arms of the langan tree.
As I strolled along the cobbled pathway to our “jungle bungalow”, I spotted something startlingly black against the mocha-colored earth. As I stepped closer and kneeled down to investigate, I found myself peering at a tiny baby bird, covered in silky ebony fuzz. He lay on his side as red ants swarmed over his little body. Thinking he was long dead, I grabbed a nearby banana leaf resting on the ground and touched his lifeless form.
To my disbelief, his gangly legs feebly pedaled the air as his tiny wing shivered.
Immediately, I scooped up the barely-alive little creature into my hands as I brushed the ants off his body. He was no bigger than a small tangerine. He had two long black legs, four spindly toes at the end of each foot, and a tiny beak tipped with yellow. He was listless in my cupped hands as I marched hurriedly back to our kitchen to help him.
I filled a small saucer with water and dipped his beak gently into the cool liquid. Thirstily, he began to drink. After several tiny gulps, he started to regain his strength. His large black eyes blinked open as his tiny head pivoted side to side to observe his surroundings.
After a few people had gathered to take pictures and investigate this little black ball of fuzz, we tried to figure out what he was. After comparing him to the native Thai chickens with smallish black bodies perched on long, sturdy yellow legs, we decided that he was indeed one of them. So naturally, I named my little chicken “Nugget”.
Immediately, I knew something was wrong with Nugget. As he regained strength, he did not strut around proudly, chest puffed out, pecking at dirt as you’d expect a chicken to do. Every few minutes, he tensed all of his muscles, closed his eyes, and arched his head back towards my fingers and trembled, his tiny fluffy breast pointed directly at the sky. Nugget’s peculiar behavior mimicked a little boy I used to babysit named Jackson — a little boy with cerebral palsy. All of Jackson’s muscles would regularly and involuntarily spasm, and as Jackson tensed and arched his back against his special chair it looked as though this little boy was trying to burst out of this feeble body with its withered hands and useless legs and into another body that could run and jump and play soccer with friends.
This is what Nugget did.
When I placed my baby bird on the ground, his gangly legs did not support him. Instead, he fell on his side and frantically pedaled his legs furiously in the air as he flapped his tiny wings. My little Nugget could not walk.
The realization of Nugget’s situation did not come easy to me; actually, it tore my heart out. I am a devout animal lover. Even as a child I brought home a menagerie of stray creatures — canine, feline, reptilian — to my patient mother who always managed to find them homes. I want the blind puppy, the three-legged kitten, the abandoned turtle in the road. I am – and always have been — attracted to unwanted, lost, and broken things.
I realized very quickly that my little chicken Nugget had been abandoned because he is broken. He has broken legs and a broken body, and therefore was not useful, was determined to be “less than”. He was left to die because he is not whole.
The second realization was worse than realizing my chicken was broken: I was also powerless to repair him. I could do nothing to fix his broken body, to restore his motor control. But I could love him, care for him, and make him comfortable while he is still here. I would not let Nugget be alone.
I searched for a box and found one – narrow and rectangular with tall sides. I made him a nest of shredded Kleenex, filled a bottle top with water, and added crunched-up corn flakes to his little home. I set him in the shade to be in peace.
I checked on him regularly. He still hung on – not dying — resting in my hands, blinking his orb-like black eyes. I pet him and held him and watered him and tried to interest him in some granola.
One day during our team devotions, he began to do something that I did not anticipate. He had been quiet all along, very still. But now, he began to cheep. Except rather than a cheep, it was more of a loud, high-pitched bleating — a distinct, desperate cry for help. As we were singing some hymn, tears began to flow in rivulets down my cheeks. My broken little bird was crying his lungs out — loudly, desperately cheeping — and I was the only one that heard him. I was the only one that heard his little cries.
I didn’t search for Nugget – he was lying there, dying, directly in my path as I walked by. I only had to go to him, to reach out, to pick him up, and to take him to safety. We do not have to travel anywhere to find the wounded and broken that line the paths in our own lives – we have only to pick up our heads and look.
I took him and gave him water and some food. We know the truth – we know what it is to have our souls nourished and satisfied with the Bread of Life, to drink from the Living Waters where we will never again be thirsty. Why are we not compelled to share this truth with all those surrounding us whose souls are parched and starving for the Jesus that we know?
Chicken Nugget cried out – pleadingly, desperately, constantly. How often do we walk by the broken and wounded, and caught in the busy noise of our jobs, our lives, our commitments, we do not even hear the desperate pleas of those around us who are so lost, and so in need of the healing love of a Savior?
It seems that in our numbers-conscious, goal-driven, efficiency-based society, we have forgotten the most basic command to us as ambassadors of Christ: to go and love one another as He has loved us.
Chicken Nugget is gone now. A large tawny man next door heard Nugget’s cries and came and scooped up Nugget with his gentle hands, assuring us in broken English that he would now take care of him. Such a relief that we serve a Jesus who is so much the same way.
Working with the broken is messy, uncertain, difficult. We cannot repair a broken heart, a broken past, a broken spirit. We must walk by faith, knowing that the Great Healer with His gentle, pierced hands will scoop them up, repair all their deepest wounds, and welcome them into his courts, making everything new.
I pray that we all will see Nugget in the faces of those in our lives: in the dirty man on the street corner who holds a tattered sign scrawled with “God Bless. Please Help”; in the single mother in the club on North Avenue who sells herself to men nightly to pay her rent; in the faces of our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends. And I pray that we will go to them – that we will take the love and promises of Jesus to the darkest places in the world, which sometimes happen to be right along the cobbled pathways of our lives.
“The heart that breaks open can contain the entire universe.” -Joanna Macy
—–Heather Anderson, Aug. 6, 2009, 3.03 am, Thai time