Reflection: The Wisdom of the Eagle’s Feather

“I hope you can find that which gives your life deep meaning, something for which life is worth living, perhaps even dying for. Something which arouses your energy and enthusiasm and which allows you to continue on your path. I cannot say what this consists of, as you need to discover it in your own way, to choose it and to cherish it” – Sr. Ita Ford, On December 2, 1980, who was murdered along with three fellow missionaries, Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan by members of the military of El Salvador)

By the shores of a blue lake there is a peaceful Indian village: at midday and in the evening there drifts from the tents aromas that give all, children and adults, a great appetite. But one summer evening, the atmosphere in the village suddenly changed. The council of wise men and elders met in the tent of Black Bison, the head chief, to discuss an important matter – deciding the sort of fate of strength that the young seven year old Indians had to undergo, in order to become members of the tribe.

At sunset the head chief appears from his tent and announces to the young ones sitting around him, “Tomorrow, at the break of day, you must go to the other side of the lake and find a feather of a golden eagle, that is hidden in a secret place”.

At first light, the young ones were already by the shore of the lake with their canoes attending to the preparation, when who should approach them, a Tired Falcon, an elderly Indian who lived precisely on the opposite side of the lake: “I am tired; to get back home I have to walk the whole day. Could anyone take me in his canoe?”

Crafty Fox looked at the others and said: “But we have our test of strength!” and all the others replied: “No, it’s out of the question today of all days; it’ll have to be another day for today we must be as fast as possible”.

“Ah, yes”, thinks Red Cloud. “If someone takes him then that person will fall behind and won’t find the golden eagle’s feather. But on the other hand this poor old man is in for a tough day to get round the lake. It’s a shame to say no”. So, going up to the old man, he says “Come on Tired Falcon, I’ll take you!”

The others looked at him surprised, “Red Cloud is one of the cleverest but cannot say no, so won’t win the contest!”

It was then, that the first ray of sunlight appeared and with shouts of joy the young ones set off happily. Red Cloud saw the others going quickly until they were far ahead and became disillusioned, thinking he’d made the wrong choice. But no sooner had he opened his eyes up to the radiant face of the old man with a heart-felt smile, then realised he’d done the right thing.

When he reached the other side of the lake, his friends had already been on the hunt for some time, and Red Cloud, soaking with sweat from his efforts, thought that there must already be a winner. But it appeared that nobody had found the feather yet.

So it was that, gathering his strength as well as his enthusiasm, he set off in search of the feather. The elderly Indian called out to him: “Wait a minute, come here, I need to give you something”. So, in spite of everything, Red Cloud stopped and went back.

Last night“, said the elderly man, “the head chief of the village told me, tomorrow at sunrise, when you return to the village, go and ask the young Indians if they can take you to the other side of the lake, and to the one who takes you, give him this”. Tired Falcon took out a golden eagle’s feather!

Red Cloud took it and uttered a cry of joy. The others gathered round in surprise and Tired Falcon speaking to Red Cloud said, “You have won the contest because the greatest strength is to have the courage to do what nobody else wants to do”.

The other young Indians looked at each other and understood the lesson. The elderly man rested, saying, “Yes, today is an important day for you all; for you have learned that in life it is better to act justly and fairly than to merely be winners”.

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