The Alpha Turkey

 

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(Those of you who have been on this journey with me since 2012 will recognize this as the Thanksgiving blog from that year. It remains a favorite, and I’m happy to share it again. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday, and I look forward to writing a new blog next week.)

Movement along our ridge caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. At first glance, I thought I saw a flock of the largest blue grouse — prairie chickens — on record. Then I realized I looked at eleven HATs (high-altitude turkeys).

The fellow on the far right was the Alpha Turkey. (I think I dated him in college but that’s another story.) Every time a brethren tried to pass, a peck or poke sent the feathered insurgent to the back of the line. I watched their social antics as the flock adhered to a rigid order. The Alpha Turkey’s determination to lead was comical; the other turkeys’ willingness to follow was amazing.

Eventually, they hopped down the ridge and out of sight. I wondered how many would survive hunting season and which would grace a Thanksgiving table with sinewy “saginess.”

How like turkeys we are! Some push to the head of the line, defending only God knows what from every angle, oozing aggression. Others are content to follow, never risking the responsibility of leadership, always looking at the tail feathers ahead. At least one is a lunatic waiting to erupt. But all exist in community, instinctively seeking a flock.

What makes us different (aside from the “likeness of God” angle, since I am confident God is not a turkey) is that some humans lead with honor, dignity, humility, and by merit of skill or strength of character. Others follow in the supporting roles without which a leader can’t do his or her job. Humans are a functioning organism of independent, symbiotic parts, just like Christendom. We’re turkeys.

I have many prayers this holiday season. Some address recent tragedies and are global, others look ahead with hope, a few are personal. One is that we each find our predestined place in line, contributing the gifts we’ve received while offering thanks with joyful hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving, and let me be one of the first to wish you a Merry Christmas.


 


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