Monday, October 16, 2006

Eating like a chicken

In the part of Nigeria where I was based for a while, if someone wanted to be really insulting, he or she would describe someone as eating like a chicken.

I was intrigued as to why eating like a chicken could be such a terrible insult and asked for the reason behind the saying. The explanation I was given was that a chicken never stops eating. From the time it wakes up until the time it goes to sleep, all it does is eat. If someone is described as eating like a chicken, it means that his or her life is consumed by an uncontrollable greed.

In Britain, if someone is very greedy, we describe that person as a pig, but that also implies that such an individual is extremely bad mannered and has no regard for the needs of others.

On the other hand, if someone is just very hungry and eats a large meal very quickly, they could be described as eating like a horse.

If you think of it, we use animals frequently in our everyday speech. We can swim like a fish, be as sly as a fox, as slippery as an eel, as peaceful as a dove, as timid as a deer and so on. Even Jesus used similar expressions in his own speech.

Why do we use animals in order to describe the behaviour of other people? Perhaps it is because we can watch animals and identify something we see reflected in those around us. Some of the behaviours are pleasant and even complimentary. I have no problems with being described as being as playful as a kitten or as peaceful as a dove. I don’t want to be known as a snake or an ass.

For some individuals, animals replace people in their lives. They find that they place trust in an animal that they would never place in another human being. Sometimes such people are just terribly lonely and have never learned to relate to others.

Some years ago, I was walking down a road in London, when I saw an elderly lady pushing a pram. I turned to see the baby and, to my surprise, saw not a baby, but a dog, dressed as a baby. At about the same time, I was nursing an old lady who was dying. When the ambulance crew had collected her from her home, they had found that she had more than 30 cats. She was going hungry because all her money was being spent on feeding the cats!

I really felt very sorry for the two old women. I think that they must have been very lonely people. An animal can never really replace a human being.

Similarly, nobody can replace God. No thing can take the place of God and give us real happiness. Some people try to put money, success or power in his place, but they never find happiness. Some of the unhappiest people I have ever met have also been amongst the richest. As the song says, “Money can’t buy me love.” If that is so, then why don’t we just fill our lives with the God who is love itself?

Lord, you made animals and love them, but people are more than mere beasts. You have given me the ability to think, to reason and to love. You have given me the ability to make choices. You give me the freedom to choose between right and wrong. Sometimes, Lord, people choose to love animals rather than people. Help me, Lord, to make the correct choice, the choice that will bring me closer to you. Amen

God bless,

Sr. Janet