The post office closes at noon here on Saturdays. I jumped into my car at 11:45 last Saturday, thinking I’d make it in the nick of time. I had just returned from a two-week road trip, so there was lots of catching up to do. I was tired and overwhelmed by my return to the “real world.”
About two miles down the road, I saw a bird lying in the street. It was a female cardinal. She had been hit by a car. Her head was on the pavement, and she flapped her wings wildly. Without a thought, I did a U-Turn, got out of my car, picked her up and headed back home. Mickey was in his car coming up behind me. He rolled down his window and without even asking what I was doing, he said, “I’ll follow you home and help.” (He knows this scene well.)
My plan for the day went out the window. My visions of efficiency and productivity were gone. I shifted gears and became present to something I believe to be more important than efficiency and productivity.
Truth #1 about Inconvenience: It’s not always convenient to be of service.
(Mothers know this one all too well.) It’s rarely convenient to have compassion — for a friend, for an animal, for your child, or your spouse. Changing your plans can challenge the inner time-keeper. It’s embarrassing to admit that a very selfish part of you wanted your day to go differently and move in the direction that your iCal said it would. But if you breathe deeply, then you’ll move beyond these ego tantrums.
I got out an empty cardboard box, lined it with a t-shirt, and carefully put the cardinal in it. Mickey mixed some “Star of Bethlehem” flower essence (for trauma) and water in an eyedropper. I gave her just a bit. Her beak stopped bleeding after about five minutes. Her breathing remained intense and she moved her head around a lot. I put the box in the pantry so she could de-stress in the dark. I said some prayers and stayed calm. I called Wild For Life, an amazing wild animal rehab space in Asheville. I left a message. I named the cardinal Caledonia.
Truth #2 about Inconvenience: Being a Drama Queen, a Martyr, or a Rescuer are not options.
You might not always know why you were called to serve a situation. It’s best to keep your eyes and heart open without bringing your drama, blame, fear and expectation to the table. This is challenging. In this case, I wanted to hate the person who hit the bird and kept driving. I wanted to hate cars. I wanted to blame Henry Ford. (I kid you not.) And the cardinal wasn’t exactly acting grateful the way, say, a Disney cardinal would act.
I noticed these voices and realized that they don’t serve the situation at all. Everyone is doing the best they can. Everyone is evolving in the way they know how. This is how I chose to show up today. It doesn’t mean anyone else has to join me. In the words of Marianne Williamson: “Since our minds do not stop at our brain casings – since there is no place where one mind stops and another starts – then our love touches everyone and so does our fear.”
Susie at Wild for Life returned my call, and I drove Caledonia over. I got to walk around the grounds and meet Pretty Boy, the turkey vulture who spent all his time nuzzling Willow, a hawk who wanted nothing to do with him. I met some baby squirrels that were knocked out of their nest by a basketball intentionally thrown by reckless teens. I met some owls that had been shot. (You can’t imagine what it’s like to be stared at by an owl.) Mostly I was inspired and grateful to know that Wild for Life exists, that these women are doing beautiful work in the world, and that they’re using their strength and power to serve in this way. I gave Susie a twenty-dollar bill to cover the expense of Caledonia.
Truth #3 about Inconvenience: There’s no such thing as inconvenience.
There’s only the present moment and what you choose to do with it. What our productivity-obsessed culture calls inconvenience, enlightened people call presence.
Susie called me a few times to report on Caledonia’s progress, which was slow. Her brain was severely injured and her eyes indicated lots of swelling. Susie said we’d wait and see.
This morning she called to tell me that Caledonia died during the night.
Truth #4 about Inconvenience: You don’t always get validated for your inconvenience.
I do believe in happy endings. I believe that Chicken Soup for the Soul and similar inspirational books serve a valuable purpose.
And I also know that not every act of kindness or courage or attention has a triumphant, results-oriented ending. It’d be nice if they did. Then we could prove to our doubting voices that “See? I did the right thing!”
The truth is that sometimes you don’t get to know the reason why you did something good. If this was Chicken Soup for the Soul, then Caledonia would have lived and gone on to save millions of lives, and I would be a hero. All for the low cost of one Saturday in my life! But that’s just ego. Right now, I only get to know that she was warm when she died, and that cars weren’t zooming over her as she lay in the road. I trust that that somehow made a huge difference.
Truth #5 about Inconvenience: When all else fails, you can create your own Chicken Soup for the Soul ending.
(I just got this idea as I wrote this post.) Wild for Life is getting prepared for their busy season. They’ve already got a new baby owl and several baby squirrels, in addition to dozens of other animals. Some summers they have to turn away animals. If you’d like to donate money to create a Chicken Soup ending for Caledonia, I have created a space in my PayPal account to accept donations for Wild for Life. (They don’t have a PayPal account yet, but I’m going to create one for them as soon as we all have time) Any donations that my readers make (by clicking on the donate button below), I will deliver in person to Wild for Life. I’ll print out your names and each receipt so that you can check with them to make sure they got it. (And this is not a pressure thing, or a guilt thing. You can donate by saying a small prayer today. And you can still leave a comment either way!! 🙂 )