As Canadians reel with horror from the news of gunmen shooting worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, my thoughts turn to a Mille Fleur hen and the turkey chick she mothered. It may seem an odd juxtaposition, but the rise in senseless attacks on The Other brings home the lessons her life exemplified.
Attacking The Other
The scene still makes me shiver. A tiny turkey chick shook with fear. She had no way of escaping the mindless assaults. The chicks around her, all newly hatched and shipped to a farm far from their mothers, noticed a spot of blood on her wing. Curious about the red, they pecked at it. The spot enlarged. Small beaks penetrated deeper into tender bones and muscle.
When I entered the barn to check on the young turkey poults, I found the little victim standing quiet and resigned. I scooped her up, cleaned her wound, and introduced her to Millie, the bantam hen we hoped would adopt her. After a moment’s hesitation, Millie tucked the injured turkey under her warm wing. From then on, Millie faced down any threat to her foster child.
Millie’s fierce protection inspired me. So did her love. She nurtured Turkey Baby until she died. One day Turkey Baby returned the favour by helping her face down a hawk. Another day, Turkey Baby wandered away from the farm. She was attacked by a rooster and a dog, nearly run over by a truck, and frightened by a group of noisy children. When one of them led the nearly grown, very frightened turkey back to the farm, she ran straight to Millie for comfort.
Tonight, in Quebec City, children will be afraid. Some lost fathers who were praying in a mosque on the evening of January 29th. Others will wait anxiously to know if their injured family members will survive gunshot wounds. Muslim children throughout the city will go to bed wondering if they might be the next victims of random violence, if their parents or grandparents or best friends will be targets of another anti-Muslim shooting. They will listen for muttered hate speech. They will watch for hostile glances.
Their world is shattered. Their sense of safety is gone. Men with guns and hearts full of hate robbed them of their innocence. Their parents will wrap loving arms around them. They will whisper words of reassurance, but the question in their hearts will remain, the question of why strangers hate them simply because they are Muslim.
A band of Millies
This is why today I am thinking about Millie. I am considering acceptance of The Other. I am pondering love offered without thought of return.
Our world is full of hawks and haters. They can make us feel small and helpless. But the Millies stand up to them. The Millies stretch out their wings. They offer shelter, acceptance and love in the face of hostility and intolerance.
This is a time for us to step forward. We need a city of Millies for Quebec City’s Muslim children, a country of Millies for Canada’s Muslims, a world of Millies for targets of hatred everywhere.
We can do this.