I assume we all know the story of Chicken Little. The panic prone little bird concluded the sky was falling, heralding the end of all creation when an apple or a nut (the story varies) fell from the tree above him, bonking him on the head. Something had indeed fallen, giving him a slight injury, but it was not the sky. It was actually lunch–vital sustenance handed to him, a grace independent of all merit on Chicken Little’s part.
How many windfalls do we despise? What events that ought to give us pause for reflection and gratitude instead send us running around screaming about cataclysms?
I traveled to Oaxaca a few years ago with my husband. In the markets were huge barrels of crickets, chapulines, sorted according to size. Being perhaps more adventurous than wise, I ordered chapuline tacos at a restaurant on the town square. The crickets were seasoned and fried in oil. Eaten in freshly made corn tortillas, they were delicious, and just a little crunchy. Of course, the exoskeletons were not exactly digestible, but I already had some problems in that department from other less daring foods I had been eating, like those bus station tortas with the most incredible white cheese.
One of the pioneer stories I distinctly remember hearing as a child was the miracle of the seagulls. When we would travel up to southeastern Idaho to visit my father’s parents, I would stare at the large painting of the miracle of the seagulls that hung in the front of the chapel in Bancroft and retell the story to my younger brother and sisters during sacrament meeting. I would catch summer grasshoppers and try to imagine enough of these bugs to threaten starvation. It was a difficult exercise for a child of modern America. The plague of locusts that devastated Pharoah’s Egypt was incomprehensible to me as well.
Just recently, I’ve been given a glimpse of the other side of the story–the side where the crickets weren’t the catastrophe; they were the windfall. The Archaic and Fremont peoples who lived in the Great Basin ate the crickets. When the insects washed up on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, dried and lightly salted, people collected them in baskets–valuable protein there for the taking with the least amount of effort imaginable. The crickets that threatened the Mormon pioneers with starvation were actually a bumper crop.
To be clear, I’m not accusing my pioneer ancestors of needlessly freaking out like a small, crazed chicken. But I am saying that neither the pioneers nor Chicken Little recognized the food that fell at their feet.
And I don’t want to simply promote a Pollyanna-esque attitude that would have us happily make lemons into lemonade. I want to recognize the flaws in our paradigm, our human generated social constructs, that condemns bounty and grace because it is harmful to our little human endeavors.
So what are the windfalls that we despise today? Are they the personal setbacks in our life’s plan? Or are they larger in scale, like the extreme summer weather we just experienced? I am naturally skeptical whenever anyone says we must act NOW. Whether it’s in infomercials or politics, that sounds like a scam to me. Anytime our society tells us that the sky is falling, we need to reevaluate that society, because our human constructs are far more likely to fail than the world around us and the God who cares for us all.