A Weekly Essay by Headmaster Palmer Bell
Over the years I have returned to this story from a collection by Fr. Anthony de Mello entitled, The Song of the Bird; it recounts the story of a very confused golden eagle.
A man found an eaglet’s egg and put it in the nest of a backyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.
All his life the eagle did what the backyard chickens did, thinking he was a backyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.
The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s the eagle, king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.”
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.
Self-image is the picture we etch in our mind of our personal attributes, characteristics and abilities. Our self-esteem grows from the degree to which we are comfortable with that picture and accept that with those very attributes we have tremendous value and worth. The shaping of each individual’s self-image and self-esteem during childhood and through the years beyond, is greatly influenced by the surrounding environment, the conversations we listen to and believe, and the filtering of the cultural “soup” in which we each are immersed. When, as was true for the golden eagle, we are comfortable living in the shadows of others, content to fit a mold crafted by them without ever fully exploring and embracing our potential, our destiny remains out of reach. Tread carefully amid the cultural stepping stones leading to monetary success rather than the path of risking, growing, and striving that may more fully express personal gifts and attributes. The temptations to follow a pathway toward being a successful “chicken” are many, yet ultimately will be far less fulfilling than striving to become even an unsuccessful “eagle.” Dare to soar!