Sunday, April 3, 2011

Collateral Damage

From the moment we moved into our house, my wife and I found ourselves thrust into the midst of territorial conflict.  Not with each other, and, no, not with our neighbors.  Our conflict has been with a squatter.  The extra body might have gone unnoticed but for the white streaks of telltale evidence decorating our front porch, and since our little problem can’t seem to go without leaving her mark, we quickly grew resentful of her presence.  When she disappeared this past winter, I gave the porch a good scrub down and hoped she would not return.  She did.

With the arrival of spring, our bird returned with a new behavior – nesting.  When her usual stoop proved unfit, our aviary pest set her sights on a decorative wreath hanging in the front window.   We were dismayed to observe the daily display of nesting materials that hadn’t made the cut scattered all over our porch.  Cleaning up after our squatter’s latest mess became a fresh source of resentment.

My wife and I regularly discussed knocking the nest down, however, our procrastination inadvertently provided the mother-to-be enough time to put some finishing touches on her masterpiece.  Finally, believing we had to knock it down before she laid eggs, we decided we couldn’t wait any longer.  In just a few seconds, we reclaimed our porch and destroyed the evidence.

As we gloated about our victory, an unexpected thing happened.  The mother-to-be returned, darting back and forth in distress.  Ready to lay her egg at any moment, she had been heartlessly evicted.  We were instantly hit with a wave of remorse.  We sheepishly asked each other how we could have been so thoughtless.  What had we done?  Why had it seemed so urgent? 

Some might argue that we were justified in our actions.  After all, it is our house and we have the right to be pest free.  It’s just a bird, right?  That very well may be true, but I cannot resist the urge to ponder the bigger picture.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4/NIV)  Continuing on, he wrote, “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status…” (Philippians 2:5,6/The Message). 

Paul may not have had pesky birds in mind when he wrote this; but I wonder, how often are we so consumed by our own agenda that we show reckless disregard for the people around us?  How often are we guilty of viewing others as speed bumps and eyesores on our journey to happiness and success?  Perhaps it would do us all some good to slow down for a minute and evaluate the collateral damage we’ve caused.  Even better, it would do us good to realize we’re not the big a deal we think we are.  After all, aren’t we all just messy birds in the eyes of someone else?  And aren’t we supposed to treat others the way we’d like to be treated?

It’s something to think about anyway.  For now, I think I’ll go put up a birdhouse.

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