Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hummers and health care......the Zen of manure!

My father taught me always to make every job, no matter how menial, into something that I was attentive to. His favorite example of how to do this was mucking out the stable on his brother's ranch. Shoveling manure was not something he looked forward to, but it was necessary. When I close my eyes I can see him and hear his voice as clearly as though he were sitting next to me today. "Always try to make whatever job you are doing interesting. See if you can find a way to do it better or differently than anyone else."

Then he would describe this very unpleasant job and how he made it something he could be attentive to. While he shoveled the foul smelling brown sludge he planned how he could stack the manure in piles (pun intended) that were carefully executed squares--level and even, or sometimes more fanciful shapes... He would often laugh and say, "If you have to shovel sh_t you might as well make it interesting!"

My mother hated his use of such graphic language, but the message seemed to be worth the words --

Washing dishes is a task that I find boring at best. Unlike Brother Lawrence, I seldom think of it as a gift to God -- but, in deference to my Father's philosophy, I do try to make it more interesting by placing bird feeders directly in my line of sight. They hang in front of the window in a nearby tree. This Sunday as I washed dishes I glanced at the feeder and saw a bird. He seemed to be sick -- the way birds look just before they expire --- but on closer observation --- he was occasionally beating his wings and clearly trying to extricate himself from the feeder. He was caught!

So instead of saying "birdie last rights," I grabbed a paper towel to protect him from the sight of a giant hand and to protect me in case he had some strain of avian bacteria that I could contract! Ultimately, I had to call in reinforcements and my daughter and I removed the feeder from the tree. (All the while I had to hold the little bird to keep him from further injuring himself. He had already managed to pull a feather from his wingtip and was bleeding.)

Using a tweezers and turning the feeder upside down --- I was finally able to free his beak which had gotten wedged between the ingenious prongs that kept the squirrels from being able to reach the seeds. It gave us joy to have saved this one small bird.

At school yesterday I had the opportunity to intervene on behalf of a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird! There is a butterfly garden outside my library window, and the butterfly bush attracts not only butterflies, but also hummers! Suddenly I heard the little fellow. The familiar hum followed by his little body bumping against the light fixture. I jumped into action turning out the lights.....I was going to make sure the bird escaped! Last year this same thing happened and I thought the bird had gotten out --- only to find his carcass later in the week! I was determined not to let that happen again so I chased that little fellow around until we were both worn out. He landed atop the 800' doubt a literary bird! I climbed up on the OSHA stool and cupped my hand over him. Sliding him to the edge of the shelf I gently placed my other hand so as to catch him. Thus did I trap the tiny fellow.

Just at that moment a group of 3rd graders lined up in the hallway on a bathroom break, and they were able to accompany me to see his return to freedom. Not, of course, before asking a number of questions about how I caught him and why he came into the library in the first place, and what would happen to him after I released him. I sent them back to their room and told them to investigate the links on their class links webpage. I had just put these up a week ago when I saw feeders attached to the third grade classroom windows.

Twice in the course of the last week I intervened to save the lives of my little feathered friends, and often as is the case that set me thinking about possible metaphors for these experiences. So here goes.

I saw a need. I didn’t think to ask myself is this worth the risk? Even though there was some danger in a woman of my advanced age and agility chasing the little humming bird and climbing up to rescue him…..I just didn't think of it.
I didn’t think to ask his country of origin. I didn’t expect anything in return, except the pure joy of saving a small life.

In the midst of the frantic healthcare anger fest -- My little birds reminded me that MOST people would do the right thing if confronted by someone in need. They wouldn’t ask his politics or even country of origin..…they would just reach out… I wonder if we couldn’t just do that…stop the shouting and reach out!

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