Ready and Willing

He is 16 years old, stooping to enter my chicken coop.

Ready and willing to help.

I have nothing to offer him but a wheelbarrow full of chicken poop, which he removes from my presence in seconds. I feel relief and gratitude and yet some guilt (or maybe embarrassment) letting him lighten my load. I’m ready to refuse help so he doesn’t have to see how ugly it is, this thing I work at night and day. It isn’t the first time he’s helped with chicken chores alongside my boys. The last time was more of a chicken housing project, but it also involved large amounts of disgusting chicken poop. I think, “It’s just bad luck that he’s always here to help when the job is so messy.” Then I realize that it’s never not messy. There isn’t a task connected to these chickens, a time that I do anything for them, that I don’t wear calf-high rubber boots and silicone coated gloves.

Let’s face it, chickens poop a LOT. They are smelly and gross. At least when a hundred of them get together, and especially when the sky is pouring buckets of rain for days on end. The coop always needs shoveling. The water buckets are untouchable. The feeders get covered in slime. The smell is overpowering. If I wait for a less messy moment to accept the offered help, I will be doing it all myself…all the time. I’ll get a little lonely, and I’ll get a little tired.

How like my life. I most need help when it gets the messiest. When the air around turns foul; when my feet are stuck in the muck; when I can’t shovel fast enough and the clamoring won’t stop until I get ahead, then I need the helping hands and another back to keep me from exhaustion. It’s also when I’m most likely to avoid asking, lest someone see just how ugly this life is. Come back to my coop on a day when the air is fresh. Ask me if you can lend a hand when I have something better to offer you than a load of chicken poop. When the walls are whitewashed and the feeders polished and the grass grown nicely over the fertilizer – then I will invite you to walk beside me to my next task. Which is really no work at all, and you can stand idly by and make small-talk while I pretend it is always this picture perfect.

I guess that day might never come around. And if it did, I wouldn’t need help.

But while I wait for it to get that neat and tidy, I’ll get a little lonely, and I’ll get a little tired.

It’s time to admit that I have nothing to offer but a wheelbarrow full of poop and thank you for your willingness to brave the stench while lightening my load.

Time to open the door and let someone stoop to enter. Ready and willing to help.


©2014 Erika Rice