I live on a dairy farm in rural Vermont, and when I’m not at my regular job or training for aha! Process, I am usually surrounded by critters—lots and lots of critters. Among the critters I have a rather humble flock of chickens—mostly mismatched and ragged around the edges, some of the birds are as old as dirt and stopped laying eggs years ago.

Every morning when I go to the barn, I am ecstatic when I find an egg. Some of my chickens are unmotivated and lay their eggs in the middle of the floor, even though they have very pretty nesting boxes provided for them! Every morning I collect my eggs, carry them carefully to the dairy barn, and show them to my husband.

I am usually very excited and talk about how we are going to share in this bounty together. Sometimes I get as many as half a dozen eggs, and I talk about the beautiful omelets I am going to make for our breakfast. Other times I might only get one egg, but still I have pride at what my chickens (Did you hear that? My chickens!) have given to me. My husband and I will share that single egg. It is how we start every day. One particular day I was gifted three special, magical eggs from my chickens, and after breakfast with my husband, I headed off to the local feed store for supplies.

At the store I encountered Bob. Bob is my next-door neighbor, and he is also the feed store manager. Bob has 45 chickens. Beautiful chickens. All 45 of them the same breed. Bob’s chickens are all about a year old and are at the top of their egg-production cycle. He gets an average of four dozen eggs per day! He cleans and sells the eggs to purchase his chicken feed.

Bob’s chickens are self-supporting, and they even turn a profit. The money he gets from egg sales exceeds the money he spends on their feed. On days that Bob doesn’t get at least one egg per chicken, he wonders who in the flock is slacking. While Bob and I were visiting, he tried to talk me into purchasing a more expensive type of feed for my chickens so I could get better egg production. I listened intently to all Bob had to say and then purchased the same type of grain I always buy for my chickens. My plan was to buy my chickens a few loaves of day-old bread at the bakery on the way home as a treat. My chickens sure do love a treat!

On the way back to my car, I ran into Dot. Dot also has chickens. Dot came to the store to purchase a new heated waterer for her chickens. Dot has beautiful chickens too—the most beautiful chickens I have ever seen! She has Copper Marans, and the eggs they lay are a deep mahogany color. Dot collects her eggs in a special handwoven basket. Between the eggs and the basket, it is a work of art. Dot often displays her eggs for visitors to see. Dot loves her chickens, and she calls them each by name. As we visit in the parking lot, I suddenly realize I am having a “Bridges moment.” A chicken Bridges moment!

For those of you who know me, you know talking comes easily to me, and I like to speak casually. Writing in formal register presents some difficulty for me. I often feel like an outsider since I spent many years living in extreme poverty and now live in middle class. Many times I still feel like that person without a home. When I am presenting Bridges Out of Poverty workshops, I spend time with the idea that the Bridges model is not a program. The Bridges model is a lens, and it has become the lens through which I view the world.

I often tell audiences that after six months of presenting Bridges, I thought I had already had every aha! moment possible. I had seen the world through all three of the Bridges lenses: individual, institution, and community. But the aha! moments kept coming, and standing in the feed store parking lot that day, I had another one.

Bob, Dot, and I all come from different economic backgrounds. I told you a little about mine, but what about Bob and Dot? Can you guess where they’re coming from?

Prudence Pease of Tunbridge, Vermont, has created a career dedicated to advancing the lives of others in her community and the state of Vermont. Pease is a certified Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator and has trained more than 3,000 individuals, including human service providers, HR professionals, and employers in Bridges work. Her personal story of growth and change as she traveled the road from welfare mom to judicial officer is extremely compelling and demonstrates beautifully the messages of Bridges Out of Poverty. Learn more about Prudence.