Several years ago I woke up one morning to the sound of a chicken clucking. This seemed odd as I lived in a residential neighborhood, and as far as I knew, there were no chickens living near us. I decided I must have been dreaming. We did live near Frying Pan Farm Park but not that close.
As I was getting breakfast I heard it again, very faint and kind of pathetic. But again I dismissed it. Still later that morning one of my children came to me and said, “Mom, I keep thinking I hear something that sounds like a chicken, but that would be crazy, right?”
I decided that both of us could not be imagining chickens so we went out to the deck and looked around. We had a small grove of trees in our backyard, and we checked that out. Nothing. We were about to go back inside when – “Buuuuck, buck, buck.” It was the saddest little cluck you have ever heard. About that time my son came running from the side of the house and said, “Mom! There’s a chicken in that big bush at the side of the Livesey’s house!” Sure enough, there she was, sitting hunched over, looking miserable, about halfway up this huge bush.
I looked at her, and she looked at me with her little beady chicken eyes. She seemed to say, “I was just taking a little run around the barnyard, and one thing led to another and then there was a really big dog and cars and cats, and somehow I ended up in this tree and I need help. Can you find me a safe place?”
The good news is that it’s not hard to help an unhappy chicken find a safe place. I called Frying Pan Farm Park, and before long a farm worker came and took our new friend home to the safety of the chicken coop. There she was welcomed home by the other chickens, given clean hay to sleep in and warm mash to eat and enjoyed the safety of the hen house. She found sanctuary.
We all need a place to feel safe and accepted for who we are. Life has a way of coming at us fast and hard, and it often feels overwhelming. In those times it doesn’t matter how much you have or what you believe, you need a place of sanctuary. It’s more than a place of physical safety, as important as that is. It’s also the idea of sanctuary, a way of living with others. It is community.
When you hear people talk about times they experienced sanctuary they will talk about warmth and walls, but deep within their experiences are stories of people. People who provided hands to hold and food to eat, people who were present to listen when life became heavy and burdensome, people who stood beside one another in the midst of chaos and people who were willing to step outside of their comfort zone to try and understand a point of view different from their own.
As a Christ follower I am called to provide sanctuary for others. This is something I have in common with my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. It is a central tenant of all of our faiths. Each holy text has example after example of the importance of caring for one another in our most vulnerable times. We are united in this belief. It is my hope that when we hear a cry for sanctuary, we will not hesitate to respond with compassion to those in community around us, regardless of their chosen faith.
The Quran has a beautiful verse that captures not only their own faith but speaks to the reality of other faiths as well. “The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil” (9:71). We are called to be protectors of one another, acting with compassion and justice as we learn to live together, holding on to our own Christian faith even as we interact with other beliefs.