Posted by: Chris Sandel | September 5, 2008

El Chico de Pollo

I’m late on this but when I saw that September 1st was officially Chicken Boy day, I just couldn’t let it go by.  (How something like that gets a day, I have no idea.)

One of my strongest memories from youth ministry in high school resulted in me being called El Chico de Pollo, aka Chicken Boy.  Every December we went down to the border of Mexico to take Christmas gifts and do other work projects with orphanages, student detention facilities and a community church.  We would pass out gifts to the kids and we took packages of food to the families in the area.  As a part of each food package, we included a frozen chicken.  The problem was, the chickens we got came in huge 50lb bocks and they were all frozen together.  Since we didn’t have any way to get them apart and we wanted to keep them frozen, we decided that the best thing we could do was take them to a manual car wash and use the sprayers to help get the chickens apart.  (Sounds pretty odd when I tell the story now but we did what we had to do).  That also meant that some of us where going to have to get a little messy and grab a bunch of raw chicken.

If you know me now it might be hard to picture me as a quiet guy but, I assure you, back in high school I was really shy.  For some reason though, when the time came to pull apart the chickens I jumped right in and went at it.  I’m not sure why I did.  I think I just really wanted to serve and if it meant getting a little dirty so be it.  (I still look back on my mission trips in high school as being some of the most intense periods of life change and spiritual growth.  They really opened my eyes to what serving is all about and I loved the feeling of not thinking about myself and doing all I could, 24 hours a day, to put others first.)

As we went about the process of breaking apart hundreds of frozen chickens people got a kick out of me jumping in as much as I did.  At one point, I was so into it that I actually got my hand cut pretty good (and I had a scar for several years afterward) when I took a direct shot from the high speed water sprayers (apparently they can take your skin right off if you aren’t careful).  At the end of each day on the trip, we awarded something like a “servant of the day” award.  That day, El Chico de Pollo won the award and, for a quiet kid who always hung in the background, that made a big impact.

I think sometimes we hesitate to compliment kids because we don’t want others to feel left out.  As I think about the idea of awarding a “servant of the day” award, my first reaction is to think that it isn’t a good idea because we don’t want to make it a competition and we don’t want others to feel left out.  But then I think back to my experience in Mexico.  It had nothing to do with competition or making others feel left out.  I don’t think that was ever an issue.  But that one fairly insignificant moment really meant a lot to me.  At that moment I knew that everyone else in the group thought I was cool (whatever that means) and for a shy little 9-10th grader that can make a lasting impact.  I know it did with me.

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