I went for an early morning spring walk. The air was crisp and the puddles had caught over with a thin layer of ice overnight. Traffic was much lighter on the river-side path, with the earliness of the hour, and social-distancing the new normal.
Little birds flitted here and there, not seeming to care that I was power-walking nearby. A woodpecker hammered away on a trunk, sight unseen. A bright red cardinal made an appearance and disappeared completely before I was able to take out my phone to take a picture. It got me thinking about birds…
The small birds who blend into the winter-dead trees have a sweet song and are very beautiful, but in a less glamorous way. If you can be still and creep up to them; they don’t mind getting their picture taken. While the flashy, well-dressed cardinal is not so photo-available and leaves you feeling empty-handed.
Not seen on my walk was the white-grey seagull who gets a bad rap as it divebombs us on the beach or in the Sobeys’ parking lot, looking for any scraps it can find. Its song is not nearly as appealing.
Then there’s the sleek, black crow with its sharp beak and its clever eyes, who cries with its death cry, “Caw! Caw!” as it picks apart roadkill.
Don’t get me started on the pair of pigeons who visit my balcony every morning. You’ve heard of cow-tipping? I am on my way to pigeon-pushing. I open my patio door and yell at them, and it actually requires a step or two onto my balcony to get those birds to listen and leave. I don’t want to push them, but I will. If I have to.
While I have taken a very nice close-up of a Newfoundland seagull, and those pigeons will stand there all day smiling for the camera, these last few species do not often feature in bird artwork, being less attractive to the eye.
Yet, the ones we esteem the highest, such as the cardinal and the blue jay, are elusive and camera-shy.
Our world pandemic has given us time to philosophize, so here I go…
Let’s flip into the human world, applying bird principles. There are the flashy people among us; those beautiful, talented ones who appear on television screens and magazine covers. Unlike the birds, they do like to be photographed and featured in social media. (Ironically, in this social-distancing-world, however, some of them are looking a little plainer without their make-up artists and hair stylists.) In our day-to-day sphere of existence, we don’t see many of those cardinals.
Then there’s the monochromatic gulls and crows who feed off of other people’s losses. They dive in to take advantage when things are tough. They will prey on the weak and steal the life from those who struggle. They are the people who will hack into your computer, loot your cottage, or steal your identity.
The pigeons just stand there cooing. They talk and talk about what’s going on. They communicate their fears and the gossip they’ve heard, and honestly, we’d just like them to go away.
Those little birds who camouflage into the background, don’t stand out in any big way, but they exhibit their beauty through their uplifting words and their service to others. They smile at the people they meet on the walking path and offer to help their neighbours who are afraid to leave their homes during this terrible time.
It is the common, brown-speckled birds, the thrushes and sparrows, who stand out right now. They love their neighbours, and they flitter about helping where they can. Their encouraging words are musical. They are beautiful. Thank you, thrushes. Thank you, sparrows. You make our world a better place.
The Bible mentions at least 11 different birds by name. They are almost always portrayed as smart, resourceful and valuable to God. In Psalm 50:11 God says that He knows every bird on the mountains. We may not see them, but He is aware of every single one. Matthew 10:29 says that He knows when every tiny sparrow falls to the ground. And not only does He know each bird, he takes care of them:
Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!Luke 12:24
As we watch the birds, we notice colour and special features that make each species unique. We may even prefer the look of one over the other. But thankfully, God doesn’t categorize His creation that way – that’s a human way of thinking.
One of the most quoted Bible verses, John 3:16, begins with the words “For God so loved the world…” He doesn’t see colour or race in His creation.
He sees people.
And He loves them all.