“Are you sure you want that one? The one with the lopsided feathers?” asked the sales clerk.
I looked more closely at the two baby chicks she was holding in her hands. I could see what she meant.
“If you ask me, there’s something wrong with that one,” she said. “It doesn’t look good enough to me. I’d never take it home and call it mine.”
Then the one she was talking about looked up into my eyes and simply said, “PeeP!”
I wondered if she realized the sales clerk was talking about her.
“I’m sure,” I said. “They look like they belong together.”
I took the two little balls of fluff from her and carefully placed them into a shoebox with fresh straw.
“Suit yourself,” she said and shrugged her shoulders.
“You are so much more than good enough,” I whispered into the small shoebox on the way to the cash register. When I held my ear to the shoebox, I could hear their happy peeping inside.
That spring day, I made two trips to The Feed And Seed Store. On the first trip, I hand-selected the baby chicks to take home with me in a large shoebox. Few things are any cuter, and so I went back for more. Those two were just scooped up by the sales clerk. But without the second trip, there would be no Gracie and Bessie in my life, and you would not be reading this.
Gracie did look a little different, just as the sales clerk had said. With the others, the feathers above their beaks were even. Gracie’s weren’t, and so her face seemed slightly odd. Even so, you can’t always tell baby chicks or people by how they look.
The first week, a small lump appeared on Gracie’s side near her thigh. As the weeks went by, it grew with her. It kept her from moving like the others. Even so, she did her best to act like them. She wanted to avoid getting picked on or jostled by the more active and assertive chicks who got quite rambunctious at times.
She stayed close to Bessie whenever she could. Bessie would go off to play with the others, but she always came back to Gracie. They slept beside each other, perhaps more by Gracie’s choice at first, but Bessie didn’t mind. It’s just like that with friends.
Most mornings, after the spring showers, I would collect earthworms from under the bricks and logs outside. While the others were enjoying their treats, Gracie stayed back from the excitement. When it was over, she would go to Bessie. Every so often, she was lucky and found a small earthworm the others had overlooked.
Once, I picked her up out of the brooder box and tried hand-feeding an earthworm to her, but she wouldn’t take it. Any of the others would have eagerly gobbled it down. For Gracie, being with Bessie was more important than even a tasty snack.
Maybe the sales clerk had been right about this timid one, I thought. But as I held her little body in my hands, my heart told me otherwise.
“You are so much more than good enough,” I said to her.
“PeeP!” she said to me, and so I put her back in the brooder box next to Bessie.
She snuggled against her best friend and happily looked up at me.
“PeeP!” she said again.
Soon I would learn Gracie’s gentle heart had many more important things to tell me other than just “PeeP!”