lessons learned: what birds can teach us about community

If your support the community, they will support you.   ~Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

Every morning around 7:30, the birds begin their early morning feeding.  Brightly colored gold finches and blue birds offset the black and white masks of the chickadees and nuthatches.  Regal red male cardinals survey the scene before calling their mates to join the feeding.  Jays, nuthatches, titmice, wrens, and woodpeckers round out the group creating a diverse community of feathered friends right outside my back door.

from the Nation Bird-Feeding Society
from the Nation Bird-Feeding Society

When I have time, I grab my cup of tea and pull my little red stool up to the window to watch the birds swarm the feeders hanging in the trees.  Even typical ground feeding species wait patiently for a turn to nibble on sunflower, suet, and seed.  I observe the intricate dance of mealtime in my backyard.  I am amazed to see how the birds made a place for each neighbor—everyone has an opportunity to eat, and everyone has a chance to visit. No one, regardless of size or shape, is left out of the meal.  Chirping and singing fill the fairy tale forest scene that is my backyard.  This amazing dance of give and take makes it seem as if this community has its own choreographer arranging every move.  I don’t want it to end.

Within 20 minutes, however, the birds usually start drifting away and leave me sitting at the window, drinking my tea, and wondering about “community.”  Here in this small ecosystem I call growing grace farm, a group of very diverse species come together three times a day and partake of a very important ritual—feeding.  Yet, in spite of the desire to meet their own individual needs, they engage in this intricate dance of interdependence, coming and going, waiting and feeding, sharing and visiting.

I wonder—how can I do that in my own “backyard?”  What are some of the “ecosystems” which form my community—family, Hayley’s school/friends, church, work, neighborhoods.  Who am I in this community dance—an educator, a mother, a friend, a daughter.  What is my role in the intricate “dance” of my community that will lend itself to appreciating diversity while honoring individuality, to wait my turn and share what I have, to support and to be supported?

As we move forward in our day-to-day lives, let us not forget that we are a part of a very intricate system of relationships.  Our lives, our priorities, and our concerns not only impact the decisions we make but also touch the lives of those around us.  As we work to build community in our backyards, may we engage compassionately and peacefully in the interdependent nature of our community so that all those within it are supported.

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