The Future in the Palm of Our Hands

A baby sparrow, too young to fly, fell out of its nest, high in the eve of the barn. I found it in the morning as I was letting the horses out to graze. There was no way to return it to its nest or even to know from which nest it had fallen. So we borrowed an old bird cage from a neighbour, made a nest inside, put the baby into the nest and attached the cage to a makeshift platform on the fence. Before long its mother came to sit by the cage, so we opened the door. The mother went in to feed her baby and keep it company. During the next three days, while we kept the cats inside the house, the parents took turns looking after their other babies still in the nest and their fallen one in the cage.

This story in itself is unremarkable except that the whole community of sparrows began a rotation of looking after their own nests and guarding the cage. They massed within seconds whenever we came close to check on the baby. This continued until, three days later, the baby flew. Because its takeoff spot was the roof of the cage, we got to see it fly away. This act of community support was thrilling to witness. Now, just in case someone would say, “So, a bunch of birds protected a baby, what’s your point?” my point is we don’t, which is why we are where we are today.

Birds don’t have words for rich or deserving, they simply respond as one when a child in their community needs them. Last fall I wrote an article on child poverty that quoted a study citing almost a quarter of young families in our city as living in poverty. Many of these children go to school hungry each day while the evening news focuses on the effects of high oil prices on the economy. Birds know that valuing and nurturing their children is the only point.

There’s much we can learn from birds. That Canada, the land of the fifty billion dollar surplus accepts this disparity of hope among its citizens as the cost of doing business is just sad. It speaks to our values more eloquently than mere words. But we can affect change right here, right now in vintage rural fashion. There are children all over our city that need our help and protection until they can fly on their own. No child in a city that boasts an abundance of rich, fertile soil should go hungry. The dreams of children, especially children in need are fragile. They need nurturing. When we sow hope for others, we harvest it for ourselves. If every village and town in our city were to sponsor community garden sites, accessible to all, supported by skilled knowledgeable gardeners, then there would be no reason for any child to go hungry, not in our community.

What we witnessed in our barnyard helped us to understand why birds have lived on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. If humanity is to survive for more than a few short centuries, then we have much to learn from birds. They value their children above all. They don’t allow their children to fall through the cracks. While parents feed others stand ready to protect. A community best serves the common good when it best serves the needs of its most vulnerable members. Maybe City of Kawartha Lakes really does hold the future in the palm of its hand. See you next time.

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