In the summer, I like to hang potted plants from my house. My kitchen faces the backside of our home so I typically have a basket hanging in front of the window for part of the year.
Before my daughter was born, I noticed that a Carolina wren family had taken up residence in the middle of a bushy fern. As I ate dinner at night, I would watch Daddy wren come home to take care of of his lovely bride and new brood.
For several summers thereafter, the family, or another, would come to roost. As my daughter grew into a preschooler, she delighted in peeking over the edge of the basket very quietly to see the new babies.
One summer afternoon, I happened to be cooking in the kitchen when I notice movement. I stopped and watched as a baby bird bravely took flight from the hanging basket. Then another. Then another. Then thump.
The last one had fallen rather than flown.
All I could think of was our bevy of cats spending the day in the sunshine. They loved the back woods as several bird feeders afforded them the opportunity for entertainment.
I feared for the baby bird and rushed out onto the deck.
As I did, I began to hear screetching. Clearly, Mama bird was fearful for her child too–not because of the cats, but because of me. Without thinking, I scooped up the baby with bare hands and put it back in the nest.
Suddenly, it was quiet. I mistakenly thought I had solved the problem and with much pride strolled back inside.
Rather than solve the problem, however, I had created one.
Over the next several hours, no one returned for the sweet child. It sat in the nest cheeping for family. I can’t say exactly when it dawned on me, but finally, I realized, no one was coming back. I had scared them away. I hadn’t saved the bird, I had only alienated its family.
Sometimes, in an effort to help others, we rush in to be advisers or saviors. While we may have the best of intentions, they can blind us from appreciating the full situation. In this case, waiting, rather than intervening, could have sustained family bonds.
In this instance, offering support would have been to stop, stand and watch, or perhaps, even to pray–trusting that Mama bird knew what was best for her child at that time, in that moment.
After several hours, I couldn’t bear it anymore. Saddened and ashamed, I called our local Nature Center and asked them what I needed to do. They told me to bring it in, and they would nurture the baby. When I arrived, the woman looked at me kindly, thanked me, and gave me some very good advice, “Sometimes, the best thing we can do is let nature take its course.” I have made sure that I keep that lesson tucked closely to my heart.