“Once there was an eagle who thought he was a chicken. Left at birth in a chicken coop, all he knew was how to peck at the dirt, scrabble for grub and walk around strutting his stuff like he was the best dang chicken in the yard.
And he was, until one day an eagle spied him from on high and wondered, “Why is that eagle acting like a chicken?”
Wanting to find the answer, the eagle swooped down and landed in front of the eagle who thought he was a chicken.
All the chickens in the yard were terrified. They raced to the coop, slammed the door and hid inside.
Not the eagle who thought he was a chicken. He was the best dang chicken in that yard and he could stand up to an eagle. And that’s what he told the eagle.
“You don’t scare me. I’m the best dang chicken around. You don’t belong here.”
The eagle was surprised. “You don’t belong here either,” he said. “You’re an eagle. Your wings are designed to soar high.”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken stuttered and spewed. “I am not an eagle. I am a chicken!” He stomped his great eagle talons in the dirt and threw back his head to show off his mighty eagle beak.
“Ummm…. I don’t think so,” replied the eagle who knew what he was talking about. “Let me prove to you that you’re an eagle. Come, take one flight with me and you’ll know the truth.”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought a moment before answering.
“Ok,” he said. “I’ll fly with you but first, you have to let me go to the coop and say good-bye to my family. They will be worried about me if I’m gone too long.”
The other eagle was standing between him and the chicken coop and that’s where safety lay. In the coop.
“Sure thing,” said the eagle who knew what he was talking about as he stepped aside to let the eagle who thought he was a chicken pass. “I’ll wait right here.”
And with that, the eagle who thought he was a chicken raced to the chicken coop. Flung the door open, entered its dark confines, slammed the door shut and exhaled a sigh of relief.
“See!” he said to the wide eyes chickens he called his family. “I am not only the best dang chicken in this coop… I’m the smartest. I just outsmarted that eagle!”
And all the chickens praised him for being such a smart chicken because through their chicken eyes, they truly could not see he was an eagle born to soar on high.
Every heart needs a home, and every person needs to have a place to belong.
Sometimes, we mistake where we’re at as that place. Sometimes, we confuse our titles, our degrees and accomplishments, our belongings, talents and accolades and our origin story, as our place of belonging.
Belonging comes from within. It is the knowing that, as Maya Angelou described it:
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”
It is the dichotomy of belonging. We yearn to be or do or have something that will quell the fear within that we don’t fit in anywhere. Propelled by our fear, we adapt ourselves to suit the world around us to fit in somewhere. And in our adaptations, we lose the one place we truly belong, within our hearts, true to our own self — which leaves us nowhere out there to belong, other than everywhere, or as Brene Brown writes in Braving the Wilderness:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
You can clip an eagle’s wings so it cannot soar.
You can dim your own light so you will not shine.
Whether you hide out in the chicken coop of your thinking you don’t fit in or fit in where you don’t belong, or strut your stuff believing you’re a rock star because nobody can see how scared you are of shining your light, you cannot belong anywhere without first belonging to yourself.
Your answer does not come from ‘out there’. It comes from and lives always within the sanctuary of your being at home with being true to your beautiful, magnificent, brilliant self, fearlessly breathing life into the sacredness of being who you are, always.
A note on the eagle story — I heard this story years ago in a video of Eldon Taylor. It’s one of my favourites.