Aside from having really stinky poop and also serving as the world’s favourite go to fast food meal, there’s more to chickens than meets the eye, well at least for me. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with chickens. Last year I’d spend my weekends selling chickens for my mom after acing tests during the week. Nowadays, whenever I can, I help her take the chickens out of the cage and back into the store after my classes. And since completing my internship a fortnight ago, I visit her stand for at least two to three hours each day. Not only to hang out and try to sell but mostly for the nostalgia, being there at the stand gets me thinking back and sinking in memories from nearly four years ago. To a time when, well how do I put it, chickens saved my life.
Back in 2011 when I was outta school and not so optimistic about my prospects on life I sold chickens with my mom for the first time, though I’d be there alone for extended periods. I’d just wasted an opportunity at university education and was self-absorbed with gloom, merely existing. Picture this, early twenties, frustrated, had never sold a thing in my life, now my life had relocated to the chicken stand at the market place. Well in hind sight that wasn’t such a bad hand I was dealt, in fact to some degree it turns out to be one of the best thing that’s ever happened to me. There’s some valuable lessons I learnt, interestingly, none of them were business related: life lessons.
Humility – at the stand, I learnt the basics, smiling at the customer, listening to what they had to say, responding pleasantly even when I disagreed with what they had to say and a thank you at the end whether they bought a chicken or not. I learnt that life wasn’t all about me that there were bigger things in life. I must point out that I was not most rude person out there but I did have traces of arrogance and know it all syndrome. With the chickens looking on, I discovered the world did not revolve around me. I learnt to get over myself and part of something good – a real life, hands on learning experience.
Responsibility – every morning when getting the chickens out of the store and into the cage, I had to count them, same thing in the evening. I had to make sure the chickens had enough water especially during hot days. Had to leave enough feed for them peck at through the night, even more during the days as I sold them off. And when it rained, it would sometimes pour hard and quick and I’d scramble to cover the chickens and ensure they were not soggy merchandise, all the while getting soaked myself. With time, I began to do these things without mom requesting, I started caring for the chickens and even enjoyed being at the stand. This was especially true when she sprained her ankle and I gladly tended the chickens by myself for a whole month.
Serendipity – by May of 2012, I had become so absorbed by selling as many chickens as I could that I did not notice the wonderful things unfolding around me. Well I’ve always been close with my mom but those days we spent in the scorching sun selling the birds and laughing at everything and nothing brought us closer to each other than ever before. And some days were quiet with the only entertainment being my phone and Facebook was the usual suspect. At that wobbly time in my life when I wasn’t ‘looking’, I made a friend (from outside town) online, weeks later she was my girl even after I told her I smelt of chicken poop (true story) , three years and two months later we still love each other to death. Beautiful unplanned things do happen.
Knowledge of self – at the market I found out more about myself than at any other time in my life. One Saturday afternoon, a friend had come to see me and as we spoke, a woman who had stopped to buy chickens at the next stand, got out of her car and interrupted the conversation. She asked if the chickens was selling were mine and when I nodded she further asked how a person using words like ridiculous in a casual conversation was selling chickens. Well after I gave a lengthy response she decided she would buy from my stand and she became a regular customer. Here’s the point, one word triggered the conversation with the woman. It reminded me of the immensity and power of words, and helped me rediscover my love for words. Some of the best poetry I’ve ever written came during those seven months I spent at the market. The encounter also helped me realise that when you shed off the snappy clothes and fanciness, personality is what makes a person. That’s a part of you that will always remain no matter the environment. Invest in it and value it.
Gratitude – down on my luck and out of school, during the first month I thought I had it bad but as is the case with most things in life, there was someone else with more problems than me. The guy who sold chickens at the next stand Dalitso, one day told me of how he, his mother, brother and sister spent over a year and a half in jail after the woman his father had fallen for falsely accused them of killing him. That’s over 18 months for something he had not done, this made my problems feel microscopic and childish and I learnt to be grateful for every little thing I had coz not everyone out there enjoyed the same graces.
And that’s how the chickens saved my life, the end hehe
P.S. You don’t need to stare and get into a trance next time you’re having hot chicken wings for lunch but you can sure appreciate and take something from an ordinary everyday situation, maybe not now but in due time.