The Little Bird

 

            It is all warm and snug inside its shell but is cramped by it as well.  As it continues to grow, the warmth and snuggliness of it are diminished in proportion to its growth and its cramped feeling increases accordingly.  The shell cracks and the little bird feels, for the first time, a rush of cool, fresh, spring air upon its sparsely feathered skin.

            Mother bird helps as the little bird struggles to free itself from its cocoon - its first and former home - its prison.  She drops the pieces of shell over the edge of the nest and settles in back atop the little bird, protecting it from the cool, fresh, spring breezes.  It is all warm and snug inside its nest and has plenty of room to grow, to stretch is legs and wings, and to move about.  Life is good and the little bird is content.

            Daddy bird brings food, feeds baby bird, and replaces mother bird upon the nest. She then ventures forth to find morsels of food to bring back to the nest to feed to her progeny, replacing daddy bird, as she does, upon the nest.  Days go by and, as they do, the little bird is bothered less and less by the cool, fresh, spring breezes that blow upon its skin during these… “changing of the guards”.  Feathers grow, replacing bare skin, and muscles strengthen as the little bird moves about its nest and wrestles with its nest mates to be first in line at feeding time.  All is well, life is good, and the little bird is content being all snug in its nest beneath its mother or father with its brothers and sisters.

            As the weeks pass and the nest shrinks, brother and sister birds become stronger, more active, and more of a nuisance than a comfort.  The nest is now wall to wall little birds and feeding times are more like a championship fight than a feeding frenzy.  Mother and father bird rarely, if ever, sit upon the nest any more for they are too busy ferrying grub back and forth to the forever gaping mouths of… the little birds.

            Mother and father bird are attacked by a mob of gaping maws when approaching the nest now, so they, instead, sit upon a branch just outside the nest and wait.  They wait on the little bird that is hungry enough, strong enough, and courageous enough to step up onto the side of the nest above and away from the mob of its siblings to take sustenance from its parents.  This continues until all the little birds are hungry enough, strong enough, and courageous enough to… leave the nest, their first and former home… and prison.

            Mother and father bird are still attacked by this little mob each and every time they approach the branch upon which the nest rests whether they do so with or without a morsel of food in their beaks.  They alight further and further from the nest upon each subsequent visit, luring the little birds further and yet further from their nest… and former home.  As they do so, the little birds gain strength and dexterity, learning how to use their feet to grasp branches and twigs and learning how to use their tail feathers and wings for balance.

            Soon, the mob of little, hungry birds is spread out all over the tree in which their nest (and former home) hangs.  Mother and father bird can now simply land anywhere in the tree and feed their morsel to the first little bird that makes it to them and then be off before a mob ever even has time to form.  The little birds stretch their wings and hop greater and ever greater distances between the limbs of their tree as they race to their parents rather than their parents coming to them.  They are happy and content in the familiarity of their home - their tree.

            A little flap of the wing in the middle of a hop, and the little birds double, triple, or even quadruple the distance they can… “hop”.  The next thing you know, these little birds are “hopping” from tree to tree by flapping their wings and, without even trying, they’ve learned how to fly, leaving the familiarity of their tree - their former home… and prison.  Now, instead of mother and father bird continuously ferrying food back and forth to the little birds, the little birds are flying around chasing after their parents for their food, strengthening the muscles and honing their flying skills as they do.

            They approach their parents with mouths agape, heads ducked, and wings aflutter, begging for a morsel.  The parent birds, according to their routine over the last several weeks, oblige their “babies”… at first, but as the days go by two things happen that alter this ritual and slowly and ever so gently bring it to an end.  The little birds are using more energy than ever before as they fly around chasing their parents.  Their demand for food is higher than ever and they grow impatient waiting on their parents to supply their needs.  The mother and father birds are now exhausted and are likewise using an exorbitant amount of energy themselves as they strain to keep pace with their… “baby” birds.  They continue to feed their little birds but they must also feed themselves, and with the little birds right there, watching their every move, they learn to feed themselves.  Through their impatience and their parent’s exhaustion, the little birds are liberated to fend for themselves and the world is now their home.

            But suppose it were not so?  Suppose mommy and daddy bird were more “compassionate” than were the birds in the story above?  Suppose they never tired of returning to the nest and tending to the chaos wrought within it?  Suppose they never, ever grew tired of the hungry mouths agape and always returned with more of that which they required?  Suppose they never sat just outside the nest, luring its inhabitants to leave its security?  Suppose they never tempted the little birds to hop from limb to limb and stretch their wings?  Or suppose there were only one little bird per nest and therefore there was never any competition at feeding time?  Suppose it were so… and not as God had created it?  Just suppose.

            But we are not… little birds and neither are we islands.  We are… mankind.  We must find the thin line between that which we are… and that which the God of the universe is leading, ultimately, us to be.  It is there that we must walk, for to be on one side or the other of this line is to miss the mark - is to damn us to being little birds, forever hopping around upon the ground, chasing after Mother Bird with our heads ducked, our wings aflutter, and our mouths agape.  To be overly “compassionate” is human, not godly; to be an island of humanity, whether individually or as a group, is equally… human; but to walk, to run, and to eventually soar along that fine, thin line between the two is divine.  It is to lead one another to being capable of helping one another, for one cannot help another if he himself is dependent upon another; nor can one help another if he shuts himself off from others, claiming his independence to the benefit of himself and to the detriment of all others.  Let us find and walk that line between these two perversions until such a time as we learn to soar above it.

 

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