When life kills your baby chickens

I was in seventh grade and I liked a boy.

Middle school relationships are extremely complicated. They consist of conversations NOT between a boy and a girl, but between the boy’s friends and the girl’s friends.

The conversations, at least before technology (back in my day), also took place by checking ___YES ___NO  boxes on notes slyly passed between friends during math class.

We analyzed a lot of facial expressions over rectangle pizza in the school lunchroom. Did he kind of smile? What did he mean when he waited just a little longer at the drinking fountain? He shoved that “other” girl in PE. Does he still like me – or is he on to someone else?

I had many of these [non-real, non-existent] relationships in middle school. But it doesn’t matter how (looking back) dumb they really were, in my 12 year old mind, those relationships really mattered. They were my PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES, and they meant social life or death.

Well, this particular relationship was with Tommy (an alias to keep the guilty anonymous). He was cute and popular and just enough mean to keep me interested. I really don’t remember everything that happened, I just remember that we liked each other in that middle school way (meaning we never even talked to each other, but we were certainly “together”).

Well, all middle school relationships eventually end. He was given the note with the news that we couldn’t be together. It was all too complicated and middle school-y and over dramatized. But the bottom line was, WE WERE OVER.

That could have been it. Tommy could have moved on to the next middle school girl and just ignored me forever. But somewhere, in his seventh grade brain, he felt hurt. Rejected. Mislead. Mad.

So he decided to do something about it.

This was 30 years ago, so I don’t remember how we discovered the carnage. Or how it all came about. But I DO know that Tommy had a good friend whose dad owned a chicken farm.

And Tommy didn’t like my break up. Or the note. Or any of it.

So they decided to egg my house.

But you see, since Tommy’s friend had access to all kinds of eggs, these weren’t just yolky eggs that made a mess on our garage door.

These eggs had baby chicken carcasses in them.

The eggs were full of underdeveloped chickens. I’m not sure if they were still growing or if there are typically some eggs that “just don’t make it”. Regardless, my family came home, fell out of the maroon mini van, and found an above ground cemetery for baby chickens all over our driveway.

I remember feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. The fragile little legs, bone wings without feathers, baby skulls – they were flayed on the concrete, the yellow yolk beginning to cook on the cement. It was baby chicken genocide.

My social death.

The following year after my breakup with Tommy (and his consequent punishment by the school), I faced the butchery of my “so-called” middle school reputation. I had about two friends, and I’m not even sure if they were really friends. The bloodshed was massive.

The lunch table, the classroom, the gym, the 8th grade trip to Washington, it was all a navigation nightmare, working my way through the dregs of middle school hierarchy left me emotionally ravaged.

But it eventually passed.

What I mean is, I got to high school, and everything changed. Friends changed, classes changed, priorities changed, opportunities changed. My small country middle school was dwarfed by the huge area high school – and we were all coming from everywhere. Square one.

I got to start over.

Looking back, I will never ever ever forget the precious pieces of those chicks scattered all over the concrete. I will never forget how it made me feel. But the reality is, these things happen. Regularly.

We get that punched in the gut feeling all the time. When someone hurts our feelings and takes advantage of our good nature. When someone slanders our name and splinters our reputation. When we arrive home from a fun family gathering only to find a massacre of disappointment, loss, or the end of something that skewers our heart.

When life kills our baby chickens, it feels like everything is over. Forever.

But that next year, I learned a lot. I may not have known it then, but I know it now. I learned where my true value was – not in friends or boys or school – but in Jesus. I learned to do something every single day that I didn’t want to do: go to school, sit in a desk, be surrounded by stares and giggles and sneers. I learned how to hold my head up high even when everyone around me seemed to hate me. I learned to reach out to those kids on the fringes, the ones who don’t have many friends because they are different or ostracized or hated.

I learned what it was like to be left out. And it was actually a good thing.

When I got to high school and found my friends, I didn’t forget that feeling. I didn’t forget my slaughtered heart. As I looked around, I did my best to be kind to those kids who looked like they felt left out. That stoner in Social Studies, that loner in PE, that quiet girl in choir. I’m sure I wasn’t perfect, but I also knew that life was killing other people’s baby chickens, too.

And maybe, just maybe, that was why they were a little different. A little mean. A little high. A little lost. A little strange.

In fact, I’m sure Tommy felt I killed HIS baby chickens. But he was passing on heartbreak that would make his world worse. His punishment, his pain was made no better by the vandalism to my home, my family. And eventually, I’m sure I was easily forgettable. I wasn’t the greatest middle school girlfriend.

Regardless of the outcome, a kind word would have made a big difference when I faced my baby chicken holocaust. And I know that is true today. There’s a great quote about being kind to people because you don’t know what storm they are facing.  I agree. I would just say it differently.

Be kind to someone today. You don’t know if life has just killed their baby chickens.

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