As an English major at Methodist College, I was required to volunteer at an event called The Southern Writers Symposium. Honestly, it was a pretty cool event. A smorgasbord of Southern Authors descended upon our fair campus for a weekend and spoke in their various areas of literary expertise for the students and community at large. I got to meet some very nice authors and I got to learn a lot about their genres.
On the Saturday of the Symposium, we had a Luncheon Lecture at which our keynote speaker was featured. I had never heard of her before, but I’ve never forgotten her: Carmen Agra Deedy. I laughed and cried my way through the luncheon, then made my way to town and bought her audio collection, Growing Up Cuban in Decatur, Georgia. I promptly fell in love with the collection of stories. Months later, when I began teaching ESL to Spanish-speaking students at Fayetteville Tech, I knew that her stories would be perfect. And they were.
One of my favorites is Carmen’s story about chicken wings. When she was a tiny girl in Cuba—during the Cuban Revolution—the family wasn’t able to get much food. They were very surprised and excited when, one day, Papa came home with a scrawny, black market chicken. Mama cooked the chicken and set it before them on the table.
Looking at the cooked chicken, Carmen wondered how that tiny chicken would feed the whole family. Her father cheerfully pronounced that he wanted a chicken wing because everyone knew it was the most delicious part of the bird. Smiling, Mama put it on his plate and he made a great production of eating and enjoying the wing.
Several months later, after they immigrated to the US—specifically Decatur, Georgia—a family in their sponsoring church made them a huge, Southern-style fried chicken dinner. They sat at the table and Carmen’s Papa immediately put a huge fried chicken breast on his plate. Aghast, Carmen exclaimed, “But Papa! I thought the wings were the best part of the chicken!”
Carmen’s parents exchanged a quick glance before her father replied, “Honey, that’s the Cuban chicken! The American chicken—her wings are not so delicious!”
It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of this story, but today, it came back to my mind at Sunday dinner at my parents’ house. My Dad’s recently had surgery and someone had brought us fried chicken for supper last night. Today for lunch, Mama put the leftover chicken in the oven and reheated it. When it got time to serve plates, there was only one piece of white meat chicken on the pan. Mama knew that Daddy would want it, so without hesitating or asking anyone’s opinion, she put it on his plate and took it to him. The rest of us had dark meat even though Mama and I don’t care for dark meat. She and I picked at our dark meat pieces and exchanged laughing, knowing glances.
There were times as a teenager and young adult that I would have been insulted if anyone said, “You’re like your mother!” But today, as I drove away thinking about it, I wanted to be more like my mother. I want to have that sacrificial “Chicken Wing Kind of Love” that simply, quietly does what’s best for those around me instead of just living to please myself.
1 John 3:16-17 (MSG)
16-17This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.