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The Newcomer

A lesson learned

There was once a day when my world seemed empty and nothing I did filled the void. In fact, there was really nothing with which I wanted to fill it.

It seemed to me that all my days before had been full to overflowing and now there was this uncomfortable hollow. A dear friend recognized, without me telling him, that something was amiss, and he took me under his wing like a mother chicken gathering her own to a warm, safe place.

The safe place he took me to was his chicken house. At that time, he was a young fellow with a long-term love affair with chickens. He always kept a little flock wherever he was and, on this occasion, that happened to be a little cabin overlooking a serene body of water.

The chicken house set at a distance from the cabin, and we walked to it through a night unlit by stars, moon or man-made illumination, which seemed to match my mood.

I fumbled through the dark, my footsteps uncertain, stumbling, not finding a good balance, not knowing where the next step was going to take me.

My friend was leading the way, unseen before me until a pale halo of light blossomed in the dark. He stood, a silhouette framed in a doorway, back-lit by the faint glow from a dangling lightbulb.

"Here," he said, reaching out a hand to pull me across the threshhold into that dry, musty chicken house odor that is saved from being rank only by its mingling with the smell of cracked corn and fresh straw.

"I have something to show you," he said.

In a corner, basking under a warm incubator light, was a nest of eggs.

He picked one up, cuddled it into his cupped hand and then held it carefully between two fingers in front of the light.

I had seen eggs candled before. When one is held in front of a light, the embryo inside appears as a shadowed outline.

This egg appeared solid, nothing unusual showing. Just an egg backed by a light.

"What?" I asked.

"Just wait," he answered.

And that was all.

We left the chicken house and he walked me to my car.

"What was that all about?" I thought.

And forgot it, until a few days later when he handed me a small box. I opened it and found an empty egg shell that had been broken open. Several tiny feathers still clung stickily to the interior of it.

I looked at him.

He looked at me.

I raised a questioning eyebrow, and he said, "Just remember. When something looks empty, it may not be."

"You mean the egg was so full, it only appeared to be empty?"

"Now you got it," he said.

I kept the halves of that egg carefully displayed under a glass cover for many years to remind me of the lesson my friend had taught me.

I would have that egg still, but a visiting 2-year-old, escaping her mother's notice, lifted the glass cover, took the shells out and ate them.

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