by Kevin Burton
Gonna tell you a funny story, then tell you what it means to me beyond the humor.
My friend Tracy sent me the story. Not sure where she got it. It is told from the perspective of a school-aged child:
“Our teacher asked what my favorite animal was, I said, ‘fried chicken.’”
“She said that wasn’t funny. But she couldn’t have been right, because everyone else laughed. My parents told me to always tell the truth. I did. Fried chicken is my favorite animal.”
“I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said ‘they love animals very much.’ I do too, especially chicken, pork and beef.”
“Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal’s office. I told him what happened, and he laughed too. Then he told me not to do it again.”
“The next day in my class my teacher asked what my favorite live animal was. I told her it was chickens. She asked me why, soooo, I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken. She sent me back to the principal’s office. He laughed, and told me to not do it again.”
“I don’t understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn’t like it when I am.
“Today my teacher asked me to tell her what famous person I admired most. I told her, ‘Colonel Sanders.’”
“Guess where I am now?”
Even better than the story, is that when Tracy sent it to me, she started by saying, “I have to tell you, Kevin, I can just imagine you being the one to tell this story back in about the 7th grade. LOL!”
She sent me this story seven years ago but it still makes me laugh out loud because she absolutely nailed it. That sounds exactly like some silliness I would have come up with back in the day.
Getting that message made me realize right away how blessed I am to have people in my life who know me that well and who go back that far. What a treasure to have that kind of a shared laugh all these years later.
If you have so much as one person in your life like that, consider yourself blessed. If you do, you have family, never mind whether the person is a blood relative or not.
I grew up mostly at the Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus. There I learned about multiplication tables, prepositional phrases and World War II, just as you did in your school.
But we grew up like family. We had our fights and territorial struggles for sure. And maybe we didn’t recognize it right away, but something special was happening there.
I think about those times and the smile it brings goes down to the very heart of me. Most of my school mates would tell you the same thing. We wouldn’t wish blindness on anyone but we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Of course those days were long ago and many things have changed, starting with fried chicken. What used to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken is now branded as KFC to de-emphasize the fried part because fried food isn’t as healthy as grilled or baked food.
There is a profit motive in that change. They were looking out for their bottom line, not your bottom.
Since our school days we’ve learned some hard lessons about the other sorts of motives behind the actions of people. It’s a flawed, stuff happens world and we don’t have time out to use to pause the madness.
That was true even before the worldwide health crisis and the disintegration of my home country.
I think we all have times when we don’t see progress. Days seem pointless. I know they aren’t pointless because the Bible tells me so. But it feels that way sometimes.
In those times, I like to reflect on the former days and those people who became my family in Columbus.
We’ve learned to call each other long-time friends by the way, rather than old friends. It’s a KFC-like verbal obfuscation that softens the blow.
When you won a wrestling match back in the day, the referee would take you by the wrist and raise your hand in the air. I used to form my fingers into an “O” for Ohio, to show I represented something and belonged somewhere.
I didn’t win, we won.
I still do that metaphorically, with whatever wins that I get these days, awards, recognition. I still represent that time and place and I savor those days like fried chicken.