The chicken controversy isn't quite dead.
It should be.
Last week while the Chick-fil-A drama, which I decided to call the "dead chicken beating,” was raging, I learned that the three-year-old son of a friend who was fighting a brave battle with a respiratory illness WAS dead.
He shouldn't be.
His mommies (yes - he had two mommies), grandparents and extended family are devastated. The Down Syndrome community is heartbroken. His church family is overwhelmed with grief. Even people who didn't know Eli personally were inspired by his family.
I'm sure that gay peeps and straight peeps, those with special needs or typically developing children, atheists and religious peeps would all agree that the death of a child is a tragedy.
This Saturday, I sat riveted, listening to people represented in each of these groups remembering Eli during his memorial service. The Reverend spoke of not being able to fathom a God that didn’t love everyone, not being able to conceptualize a God that would exclude anyone on Earth from receiving the kindness and dignity that all human beings hope for, let alone keeping them from Heaven.
With all the disagreements about religion and politics, we all agree that agree that life is precious and we all matter. If we didn't, we wouldn't fight to live life on our terms with purpose. And that is one of the reasons why the bitterness, anger and intolerance on both sides of the dead chicken beating really got to me.
I have read everything concerned with the dead chicken battle that I could get my eyeballs on. There were so many good points made with regard to so many different issues, but from what I could see, the words of Dan Cathy provoked the same basic emotion in all of us – FEAR.
Fear that we aren’t good enough, that we are wrong, that God doesn’t love us, that there isn’t a God at all, fear of what is different, fear that we are different, fear that no matter what we think we want and believe doesn’t matter, fear that we aren't worthy of love, that we can't love others.
Personally, what I want the most in life is to love and be loved and to live so that my life will matter to others when I am gone. I encourage my kids to approach every interaction with their fellow humans with the intention of making sure that when they part with another person, that person walks away feeling stronger, happier, loved and accepted because of the interaction.
To the world, they are one person, but to one person they can represent the world.
My greatest concern is that they won’t understand why they must do this, why they must continue to do this despite the fact that they often won’t receive the same consideration. I worry they will give up, finding it impossible to carry such a burden. They haven’t had much practice being humans, yet during the time they have been here, they are witnessing a dangerous dichotomy that goes against what I am trying to teach them.
The heated and hateful arguments among adults were indeed the other reason the uproar got to me. It made me wonder just how realistic it is for me to set the bar so high for my kids considering the demonstration of how challenging and difficult it is for most grown- ups to do what I'm asking them to do. I fear that even I would have gotten quite caught up in the emotion had it not been for Eli’s unexpected passing. Would I have been unreasonable?
I can't say I wouldn't have been. I have my own opinions, beliefs and feelings about the dead chicken fight. The whole thing scared me. But Eli's death scared me more.
In the midst of the continued nastiness and beating of the dead chicken of Chick-fil-A, I witnessed the reason both sides were so passionately inspired to fight. In a room packed with people who loved Eli, there wasn’t a person there who didn’t matter. There wasn’t a person there who hadn’t been touched by the goodness of sweet Eli and his mothers. We all were honored to behold the power of a life and the lives that life touches. There was no political agenda or religious dogma.
I was acutely aware that I was experiencing the truth of what really matters in a setting that combined BOTH sides of the dead chicken beating argument. The truth is that love is the absence of fear. We all just want to be loved, to not be afraid, to know that we matter.
We are all too busy beating the dead chicken to realize that we are all really on the same side after all. We want to live, love and laugh in the way that makes life matter to each of us. It really shouldn't be this hard. Eli created a family who did this.
Fly to the angels and rest in peace, Elijah. Your life changed the world. You mattered. You were loved.
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