Along with the gifts presented at our house last Christmas came a turkey I named Harry. I named ‘him’ thus for no other reason than that I liked ‘him’ and thought ‘he’ should have a name, as did every other member of the house. Never mind that I did not even know, or bother to find out, if Harry was male or female.
Everyone in the house liked Harry (save for those moments he went patrolling and leaving in his wake turkey droppings). He had a sharp ear, susceptible even to the slightest of sounds, and his attention would perk up every time he heard the kitchen door creak. If he heard footsteps or saw anyone approaching, he’d make his turkey sounds. Unlike other turkeys we’d had in the past Harry was calm (except when it was his feeding time; then he’d chase you or rush to meet you) and loved being around humans. He was a very curious turkey, who, when he was not sleeping or tied up, would go about the whole house watching what everybody did and stopping for a while to rest beside them (and, of course leave his droppings behind to remind them he’d been around).
When Harry first arrived at our house, he ate nothing for three days. He did not even drink water. As time went on, however, he drank his water but left all foods untouched. We were beginning to worry about him when my mother, by a stroke of luck, discovered that Harry loved leaves. From that day forth his staple meal became salad, and we gradually incorporated all the other foods we ate into his meals.
Harry soon proved to have quite the appetite. He’d eat everything that was set before him, and lick the ground clean every time, no matter how many times a day he was fed. We joked that he was making up for the first three days he’d starved himself. And although I found this cute on certain days, my analytical mind on other days bothered me with a question: ‘Is that all Harry was created to do: eat, sleep and decorate the house with his droppings?’ This thought continued to bother me, and I kept pushing it out of mind with the response, ‘Harry’s only a bird. He doesn’t need to have a purpose in life.’ But that response did not put my mind at ease. I needed to find a reply to my question. So, as is my wont, I pondered the thought. The first idea that came to me was, ‘ at least he puts a smile on our faces by his very behavior, even in the way he trots and jumps at intervals when he’s running. One has but to watch him or think of his silly acts, and it’s enough to make one burst into laughter.’
‘But’, I thought to myself, ‘Harry was not created solely to be a jester. Surely, he was created for something more.’ Not being able to decide what more Harry could have been created for, I attempted drawing an analogy between him and a new born baby to calm myself down.
A new born baby is usually cute, a joy to watch, and draws laughter from everyone by its very acts. Although all it ever does is eat, sleep, cry and relieve itself, it still evokes warmth and love in our hearts. Perhaps Harry had been brought to our house to enrich our lives with laughter and make us feel warm again.
This was a good explanation, but for some reason it did not suffice to quench the thirst of my thoughts. And then I got it! The turkey was an edible present. Harry would eventually find his way onto our dinner plates. And then he’d serve another purpose. The purpose for which we constantly fed him, and for which he, unwittingly, consumed his meals. Harry’s meat would nourish our bodies. The richer the foods we fed him, the richer his meat would be, and the better it would nourish us.
Having calmed myself down thus by apportioning to Harry a purpose, I was struck by how similar Harry was to our character as humans. Like Harry our character serves a purpose. And, just like feeding Harry, whatever trait we feed it or allow to dominate it will either be beneficial or detrimental to us. In the same way that making the choice to feed Harry with good food will accrue to our benefit later, so will taking the right decisions and constantly choosing to perform the nobler act benefit us later or in trying times.
We could make the choice not to take what doesn’t belong to us (steal) when we are tempted, not to tell a lie or deceive a soul even though no one is sure to find out, not to lose our tempers simply because it is in our nature so to do. Just as in Harry’s case, everyone may not notice just how well you are feeding your character through your daily choices, but on a day of reckoning, when your character shines as a result of the better choices you’ve made to improve on yourself, you’ll be admired by all who observe the result of your efforts.
Inevitably, Harry will make it onto our dinner plates, into our stomachs, and out of it. But I will always remember him for the moments of rich laughter he brought and this lesson he helped me learn.
ps: Harry was actually Harriet all along. No, she did not undergo surgery. I found out on the occasion of her death (slaughter, I should say) that she been female all along. I had just never bothered to check. 🙂