Several days ago, I had the privilege of rescuing a tiny young house finch whose feet and legs had become tightly bound together by several strands from her own nest. She had been flapping her wings in a desperate attempt to escape for quite some time and was hopelessly trapped, a dozen or so feet above the ground, under some solar panels where I work.
As soon as I heard about the bird’s predicament, I knew I had to help. I borrowed a tall ladder and soon found myself perched rather shakily at the top, sweating in near 100-degree heat. It was no easy task—trying to free her gently without causing her further injury. Her little legs were crusted with dried blood and a part of one of her wings was rubbed raw by her struggles, but she fought bravely against her unforgiving bonds and me as well.
Working to free her, I was impressed by her incredible will to survive. As I felt her frantic heart pounding wildly against my hand, I suddenly felt an intense Love and Compassion for this small, seemingly insignificant creature. I was instantly and profoundly humbled, for she had reminded me that the gift of life should be cherished—in all its many forms. It occurred to me that this is an important lesson many human beings must still not understand, for so many of us still continue to harm one another (and so many other of Nature’s creatures too).
While I carefully pulled the nest apart and gazed into this little bird’s frightened black eyes, I thought about the reasons so many humans seem to have such little respect for life. I came to realize that, in many ways, this callous disregard is just a dark shadow from some very old and clearly outdated ways of thinking and reacting. For thousands of years, mankind has somehow come to see itself as being completely separate from everything else. Like this little bird, from our earliest roots the drive to survive has taught us to be suspicious or even hostile to those who are not familiar to us.
In our troubled human history, it hasn’t been unusual at all to see new neighbors fear, compete with, and even kill one another—simply because they perceived themselves as being different from one another. Unfortunately, even those with close familial ties had (and still have) no guarantees. Those who’ve had disabilities, behaved differently, or somehow failed to meet “cultural standards” were often ridiculed, beaten, shunned from society, or even killed. In some situations, this habit of discrimination may have been seen as a way to limit the spread of illness or disease, but in far more cases these primitive fears and their resulting brutality were completely unnecessary and utterly baseless.
As shards of glass will scatter when a window pane is dropped upon a hard surface, humanity itself has become shattered. And, while the human population has grown, so it seems have our differences. Tribes became clans, clans became villages, villages became cities, and cities became states and nations. Instead of seeing our differences as beautiful and unique expressions of Creation and accepting them as such, we continued to cling to our old, familiar biases. Today, people allow themselves to be eternally divided by their own beliefs and allegiances. When we aren’t divided by national origin, language, or culture, then we’re divided by race, skin color, religious belief, or political philosophy. If these differences aren’t enough, we divide ourselves by age, physical appearance, sexual orientation, and gender. We’re even judged and segregated by the kind of cars we drive, the brands of clothing we wear, the sports teams and celebrities we worship, and the type of “smart phones” or technology over which we obsess. And the lists of things that separate us just goes on and on…
To make matters worse, recent tensions between some members of our community and the police have led to even greater divisiveness. Resulting slogans of “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” seem only to have fanned the flames of conflict, as do claims that the phrase, “All Lives Matter” somehow disrespects or minimizes the feelings of those who are suffering from the violence on both sides of the issue.
Seriously, has it come to that? Have things gotten so bad that even those with the utmost respect for life are now vilified and attacked for their Compassion?
I would suggest that if we are to evolve as a species, we must stop looking at one another through the myopic lenses of ignorance, prejudice, and fear. At some point we must begin seeing each other as fellow travelers, all sharing a life together on this beautiful Earth home of ours.
It’s now well past time for us to wake up! It’s time for us to end this insanity! It’s time for us to see that generations of insecurity, competition, and conflict have left us all struggling to find common ground and the understanding that, when it all comes down to it, we are all one race. Differences are wonderful, of course, for they make us each stand out from one another–just as the individual grains of sand appear different upon a tropical beach. But in the end, we are One Tribe. One world. One people. One Spirit.
It took a chance encounter with a small bird for me to fully understand that all are important. All are equal. And all are loved beyond measure—even the tiniest house finch.
So please…let’s learn something from the struggle of this little feathered creature. Let us remember that all life is precious and irreplaceable, all life is sacred, and all lives truly matter.
PS: In the end, I was finally able to free this little bird and take her to a local wildlife facility for treatment. Several days later, I was disappointed to learn that she didn’t survive her difficult ordeal. While I am saddened by her loss, I’m profoundly grateful to her for reminding me how wonderful, fleeting, and precious life is. And I’ll continue to honor her gift every each and every day by appreciating the Life Spirit in all things—no matter how great or small they may be.
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