3 Owls

After all that I do for them, there is little evidence that they appreciate me. I feed them. I provide shelter for them in summer and winter. I invite them to my home, not into my house, but into my garden. Then I get into my car and their thanks is splattered all over my windshield.

Birds just fail to appreciate what I do for them. I refrain from spraying my lawn so that plenty of insects, worms, and untainted seeds and nectars provide meals without poisons to invade their little systems. I grow the plants that produce the flowers, berries, and shelter that they are supposed to enjoy. I leave a brush pile or two for their protection in winter. And this is the thanks that I get? That bird had to be aiming for my window to do such an expansive job.

Birds are supposedly descended from dinosaurs. That oversimplified claim is probably about as true as saying human beings are descended from apes. Maybe they are getting their revenge on us mammals for replacing so many of their large ancient relatives with our own kind. Maybe they remember more recent extinctions, like the dodo and the passenger pigeon. Apart from a few species regarded as nuisances, most people appreciate birds. We admire their plumage, enjoy their songs, and marvel at their acrobatic flying. Along with Jesus we learn from them not to worry about tomorrow.

Birds do resemble people enough that we frequently compare ourselves to them. Stool pigeons. Night owls. rockin’ robins. Lawyers like vultures. Singers like larks. Renewing our strength like the eagles.  Maybe they resent such pretentious comparisons.

The mess on my windshield reminds me of many messes each of us faces every day, left by birds of a different feather. Not all of them appreciate what we do. That is a fact of nature and of life, but our motivation to enjoy others and continue trying to help or please is not diminished by this fact. We keep putting the food out, developing the habitat, and cleaning up messes so that all of these species can learn to live together and encourage each other.

Appreciating others comes from an inner commitment to the community and commonality that we share. Neither born nor bred into us, generous attitudes come from the giving of others and their teaching by example and word. As we have been fed, so we feed. We learn from making messes what it takes to clean them up. Thanks, birds. You’re not so dumb.