Birds make me nervous. The seeds of apprehension were planted during my girlhood. I think it began with Felix, my uncle's mean-spirited Cockatiel, who on occasion perched himself on my shoulder just long enough to snip my earlobe. Or perhaps the Seagulls at the beach that swooped low to grab picnic lunches and later dropped an unwelcome surprise on my head first garnered my disdain. Wait. There was also an Emu that hissed at me and would have removed my right index finger had I been standing just an inch closer to him. It is a sordid history... the one I share with birds.
Although I am not sure of the exact time and place I began distrusting birds, the solidifying moment remains clear in my memories. It was a domesticated Amazon Parrot named Romeo who elevated the tension between me and all feather donning species.
Romeo, the beloved pet of a former employer, showed off a few tricks during an office party. He talked, danced, and clasped his claws in prayer formation before flying over to where I stood. Before his pointed beak tore open the skin on my exposed nape, I knew his sinister intentions. I remain clueless about the impetus of Romeo's attack, but nonetheless, the sound of rapidly flapping wings still freezes me with terror.
I never flippantly decided to dislike birds. I remained guarded around them for good reason; after all, it was the birds who had a vendetta against me. After the Romeo incident, I would not even go into a house of a friend who owned a bird unless the pet was securely locked in its cage. And although I never tried to harm birds, I also didn't care much about promoting their survival.
Owning a birdhouse, bath or feeder held no interest for me. I appreciated their songs, but certainly did not want to attract those chirping creatures to nesting anywhere near my home. When my five-year-old daughter first asked me to purchase a bird feeder, I balked. Not wanting to transfer my fears on to her I simply replied, “not now...maybe later.”
A few weeks after Pumpkindoodle's initial request for us to buy bird seed, I read an article about wild birds starving during winter months. My heart softened and there began a deeper desire to cultivate my daughter's love of nature and her interest in caring for God's creatures. Putting my reservations aside, Pumpkindoodle and I went shopping for some bird seed blocks and dispensers. We hung up the feeders and then waited for our feathered friends to arrive.
Birds didn't instantly flock to the new dining establishment. In fact, I wondered if they would ever arrive. And then one morning, while Pumpkindoodle was at school and I was washing breakfast dishes, I heard a few dull taps outside my window. A regal looking red chested bird sat atop one of the feeders. A short distance from him were two smaller birds pecking away at a bell shaped clump of seed hanging from a tree.
I returned to that window several times during the morning and throughout that entire day. Instead of seeing what I once classified as ill-mannered scavengers, I saw sweet and resourceful creatures beautifully dressed by the hand of God. Joy permeated my soul as I recounted scriptural references about birds...about His eye being on the sparrow and about the swallow who nests near His glorious alter. My judgment on an entire species based on a few shady fellows shed. After feeding a few birds, I delighted in their appearing, I appreciated their attributes, and I felt blessed by offering them sustenance.
Sometimes, I look at people in the manner I once regarded birds. I harbor mistrust, fear and, ashamedly, animosity toward individuals who remotely remind me of others who caused me pain.
If I notice a father who appears stressed and despondent toward his children my first reaction is to feel annoyed with him rather than wonder whether or not he is hurting. When I see a well tailored and confident woman around my age I think about my own insecurities before pursuing friendship. If the tone of a customer service representative sounds tight or weary, my patience is likely to unravel before I consider the possibility that the individual on the other line has had a bad day.
Quick assumptions are often easier dispersed than compassion and understanding. Yet I have found that joy and blessing do not live among bricks of judgment or walls of protection. Instead, they rest in the place where vulnerability is unveiled, service is offered and love is lavished.