I have a small flock of chickens which I truly enjoy. Among them are Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and a pretty gold variety with striking gray wing feathers. I delight in the simple chores of feeding and watering and I like to watch my children happily scatter ground corn and gather wholesome brown eggs. We all enjoy watching the chickens strut about in their vibrant colors as they resourcefully peck about the yard in search of daily nourishment.
Mostly, the chickens humor me. When we throw them our table scraps, they happily squawk out cheers and then dash eagerly to a buffet created from our excess. Content with the leftovers of others, they relish what might otherwise have gone into the garbage can. Half a bowl of cold oatmeal, apple cores, and corncobs are certainly treats worth running for! A few spoons of mashed potatoes, a stale dried out bagel, or colorful vegetable peelings are cause for a clucking celebration! Once, a bag of marshmallows fell all over the kitchen floor and were swept up and taken to the chickens. Have you ever seen a hen happily run about with a large white marshmallow in her beak?
Some consider chickens to be stupid, nervous, and scatter-brained, but when I sit quietly to take note of their survival skills, I can’t help but observe how much they stick together. If one darts into the henhouse, they all will follow. After pecking around for a bit, if one turns around and steps back out into the sunshine, the rest will surely do the same. Chickens hear risk in a neighbor’s barking dog or see danger in the skyward shadow of a prowling chicken hawk. Knowing a predator could instantly swoop down from the sky or spring out from around the corner of the building; chickens are generally clustered together for safety during the day.
On many cold evenings, I have seen my chickens gather inside the henhouse and huddle there together in the warmth and comfort of many downy feathers. Instinctively realizing there is strength in numbers and understanding that safety is found in the flock mentality, each chicken knows it is too weak and too vulnerable to live alone.
Perhaps chickens have known all along what suicide survivors soon learn – there is strength in numbers:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
God never intended for any of us to travel life’s journey alone. Whatever hardships or sorrow we are forced to bear and whatever blessings and joy we are privileged to enjoy – all of these life experiences tastes far less bitter and much sweeter when shared with a travelling companion or two. Each member of the Christian community – as well as all survivors of suicide loss – finds healing, joy, and purpose when we live bolstered by the strength and numbers of likeminded individuals who understand our pain and fears and fully support our journey to healing.
Let us live with joyful purpose, find simple delight in the occasional castoff marshmallow, and promise to vigilantly protect each other from lurking danger.