Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Least of My People

From time to time hummingbirds fly into our barn by mistake and, disoriented, become trapped despite the wide open doors and windows. They fly higher and higher, frantically beating at the rafters because they instinctively sense that upwards is the way to freedom. The white underside of the roof mimics the pale tones of the sky and further confuses them and they zip back and forth, buzzing pitifully, until they eventually discover the escape route.

An unlucky few, however, don’t find an opening until they collapse from utter exhaustion, literally unable to move and as helpless as a victim of diabetic shock. They crumple to the ground, weak and paralyzed. On several occasions last year we found the fallen birds and, recalling a long-ago presentation at a local nature center, attempted to resuscitate them with sugar water. The task fell to me once, and the hummingbird feeder was brought down. The miniscule creature was cradled in the palm of my hand. It would open its eyes for a moment, then close them again in a pathetic display of hopelessness. I forced its beak into the opening in the middle of the plastic flower and it lay motionless in that position for a few seconds, before withdrawing its head violently. We repeated this procedure a few times, and it soon became clear that the bird was not only drinking, but regaining strength visibly. It puffed itself up and squeaked a few times, then fed on its own. Then it shook, stood up straighter, and whizzed off into the wild blue yonder. It was a beautiful moment.*

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe what we need in our lives is a little compassion. Take the time, reach out, offer a little help or just live and let live. While I’m certainly wont to grasp too hard for a metaphor, the helpless hummingbird could certainly be compared to anyone and everyone we meet on the street, or really any other divine spark of life.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.

--Matthew 25:40

Can we somehow find personal fulfillment through our own kindnesses and good deeds? Religion and prophets would say so. By acts of compassion, we help not only the objects of our kindness, but also ourselves and our souls, if you’ll allow me to get a bit metaphysical here.

(I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Part of it is summer musings, part of it is parroting what I’ve been taught in philosophy books and religion classes. But it’s something to think about, anyway…)

Of course, this is coming from the person who will slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a butterfly.

*The first two paragraphs are a result of what happens when I try to compose a blog post at one in the morning. Melodramatic with pompous, unintelligible diction much?


secret agent woman said...

"can we somehow find personal fulfillment through our own kindnesses and good deeds?"

YES. It's the only way, in my opinion.

(My hummingbirds made their first appearance yesterday.)

Mozart said...

We've had hummingbirds for months now. I love watching them and their little air-battles around the feeder. Territorial little buggers.