A Rooster Tale – Happy 2016

Happy 2016


When I was a kid, we lived in a trailer house on my grandparents’ place. They had a farm with requisite chicken coop, cows, and garden. It was also the residence of the meanest rooster God ever created. It had wild red eyes that glowed in the dark, sleek reddish-brown and dark green feathers, oily with evil.

I hated that bird and was thoroughly terrified of him.

I was about five when the rooster from hell crossed my path for the first time. My brother was six. To this day I believe that rooster lurked in the yard, waiting for my brother or me to come outside. He was a sneaky creature, full of cunning.

Sixty-five-plus years have not dimmed my memory of the terror I felt the first time that cannonball of pure wickedness homed in on me. All I could do was stand there and scream my head off. Fortunately someone, probably my grandmother, came into the yard and scooped him up before he could fly into my face and peck my eyes out! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear I can still smell that bird’s chicken yard breath!

For days afterward I wouldn’t leave the safe haven of our house. My parents had little patience with slackers, and threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t do my chores, which meant at some point, going outside.

Chicken YellWith quivering, wet-noodle legs barely holding me up and a belly watery with anxiety, I opened the door carefully, scanned the yard to see if the evil one was anywhere around, then stepped outside, watchful and alert. About the time I started feeling easy in my mind, that foul fowl came cartwheeling right at me, a flurry of feathers churning up dust. An awful squawk raised the hair on my arms and neck. After one breathless second of terror I was off like a shot heading up the steps to the house screaming, “ Mama, Mama, Mama!”

My mother hated that bird almost as much as I did, but she wasn’t afraid of him. She hauled out the broom and went after him with a vengeance. “Shoo, shoo! Out of here or it’s into the pot for you!”

My father didn’t hate the rooster, but he didn’t like the fact that my brother and I were terrorized by something with feathers. Dad told us to yell or throw rocks at the rooster to scare it off. “You’re bigger than that bird, don’t let him scare you.”

As I recall, I wasn’t bigger. In my mind I was about the same size and I didn’t have spurs.

Nevertheless, with my father’s words as a motivator I made up my mind, no crummy chicken-legged piece of poultry was going to keep me prisoner in my own house. My brother and I started carrying a stick or a broom with us when we were outside. The yard became a battlefield, one we defended resolutely, usually with me standing behind my brother as he did battle for both of us.

As it turned out the battle was won by default. One night something got into the hen house and the rooster met its end. I’ve always suspected my dad had a hand in that, but maybe not. Dad insisted it was a fox.

That rooster, as much as I despised him, and my father’s insistence that we couldn’t let a silly bird whup us, taught me a lot about not allowing fear to rule my life.

In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a speech to Congress:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.”

There are a lot of roosters in the world, stirring up hatred and violence in every barnyard around the globe. Freedom from fear is something we lack in this anxiety-filled world. We’re afraid to speak out, we’re afraid not to speak out. We’re afraid we won’t have enough money to live. We’re afraid of terrorism – domestic and global. We’re afraid of illness. We’re afraid of death. We’re afraid nobody will like us. We’re afraid we won’t or can’t live up to the expectations of others. We’re afraid to marry. We’re afraid not to marry. We’re afraid our leaders are dolts. We’re afraid our homes are vulnerable to thieves. We’re afraid we are vulnerable to violence. We’re afraid of millions of problems that can arise in an instant over which we have absolutely no control.

The good news is that we have at our disposal two weapons to overcome that fear, much like the stick and the broom we used to defend ourselves against that wild-eyed rooster. We have courage and vision.

It begins with courage based on wisdom and discernment, and is under-girded by a vision of ourselves as winners, not victims. Courage gives us confidence, vision gives us possibilities.

In 2016 be courageous and visionary. Don’t let the roosters win.


 Updated and reprinted from an opinion piece written by me in the Hermit’s Peak Gazette in January 1999. Thanks, Marylena Melton for sending this to me. Given the state of the world, this seems as relevant today as the day I wrote it nearly 15 years ago. Interestingly the words President Roosevelt wrote 75 years ago resonate as well.

The ripple effect of kindness

Ripple Effect

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

Unfortunately much of the daily news is horrific. Thank the Lord for broadcasters who attempt in some small part to find one “good news” story to report, or some heroic act done by a selfless person. Frequently these folks say after doing some very brave thing, “I’m no hero. I just knew I had to so something.” The good deed gets maybe 30 to 45 seconds of airtime and then it’s back to the basics, violence in one form or another punctuated by misconduct, murder and mayhem.

Remember the television show, House? Hugh Laurie said of his television character Gregory House: “As a real person, he wouldn’t last a minute, would he? But drama is about imperfection. And we’ve moved away from the aspirational hero. We got tired of it; it was dull. If I was House’s friend, I would hate it. How he so resolutely refuses to be happy or take the kindhearted road. But we don’t always like morally good people, do we?”

I am troubled by this assessment. Is it because I fear Laurie is right? We want the heroic underdog to overcome, or at least we say we do, but too often we relate to the negative personality or anti-hero. They seem more real to us than the sterling good guy, the Dudley Do-Right. He’s just too good to be true, and if Laurie is correct, we see the good guy as boring or foolhardy while the badass is exciting. I wonder how many battered women feel that way after living with a badass for a while?

The television and movie industry, perhaps the entertainment industry overall, reflects our fascination with negativity. Much of what we see is less about overcoming and more about fallibility. There are few heroes, unless they’re dressed in goofy super-power costumes. The elemental goodness of ordinary people is rarely revealed. Do we not believe in or want to promote goodness?

I believe in goodness. I am uplifted when I see a story in the paper about personal triumph, or about someone who went the extra mile to help someone else. That is what shapes my world.

And that’s the point of life, not what other people do, but how you treat people and give back goodness, even when you have been treated unfairly. Every act of mercy and kindness has a far-reaching effect, perhaps in ways you will never know. One act of kindness may be little more than a drop in the bucket that is life, yet you can be assured it will ripple out and touch others.

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Accolades for Dr. Elliott

Dr. David ElliottCongratulations to Dr. David Elliott, who has been named Alta Vista Regional Hospital Physician of the Year for 2015. I can’t think of a more deserving person for this award.

CEO Chris Wolf made the announcement at the hospital’s June medical staff meeting.

Dr. Elliott has been a member of the AVRH medical staff since 1978 and is well known and respected at the hospital and in the community. He serves on the AVRH Board of Trustees, Medical Executive Committee and is the AVRH Physician Advisor.

Hospital employees were asked to nominate a physician they thought best met criteria that demonstrates compassionate patient and family care, recognizes all health care disciplines as partners in care, treats employees with respect and dignity, helps educate and develop patient care providers, recognizes and supports team efforts within the patient care setting, and actively participates in community events/opportunities.

According to the nominations that were submitted, “Dr. Elliott’s ability to hear the needs of others, coupled with extensive knowledge, provides an insightful approach to problem solving. He takes excellent care of patients and their families; Dr. Elliott works with and respects all aspects of the health care team.”


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