Is there a price tag for compassion? Those were the words that jumped off the page yesterday as I read the morning newspaper. The question came from an article that would have been easily overlooked tucked as it was amidst the usual murder and mayhem that makes black marks on white paper. The report was of a wayward bird. A rufous hummingbird to be exact. A bird that was observed at a nectar feeder in St. Paul by a woman who knew her birds. Good for her and good for this bird.
Terri Walls noticed the colorful yet miniature winged one, perhaps, even more visible with our blanket of white snow that came as an early gift this week. I don’t now if Terri has a bird book by the windows looking out to her feeders like we do, but she clearly knew something was unusual about this bird. You see the rufous hummingbird’s homeland is the Pacific Northwest in summer and Mexico in winter. She had the wisdom to contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and spoke with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator named Jessika Madison-Kennedy. Through the kindness and compassion of these two women the bird was captured and taken to the Center where it is awaiting a trip on the wings of another kind of bird…..a metal bird….to get it back on course. In Arizona.
Madison-Kennedy spoke of the bird “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The thought is that it had been blown off course by weather disturbances in the Pacific Ocean. And so it found itself here, in Minnesota, in some of the coldest days we’ve known in November in some time. While it was described as a “healthy adult male of typical size, a few inches long and a penny’s worth of weight”,this fragile creature needed to rely on the kindness of strangers. And now it is about to get the ride of its life so it can see familiar landscapes and join up with wings and beaks it knows.
Reading this article yesterday I couldn’t help but think of the many two-leggeds I know who must feel similar feelings to this rufous hummingbird. Blown off course. In unfamiliar landscape. Looking out for others that seem like faced, like winged, like feathered. We have all been there. We find ourselves in a place that doesn’t seem like a place we know and we wonder how in the world we got there. Sometimes this comes abruptly, out of the blue, with a choice or a decision that rocks our world. For many this is a constant, every day experience they’ve know their whole lives. Various circumstances bring on such a state…..slips in mental health……addiction….illness….loss…..grief….anxiety….depression……whatever the trigger….the result is being blown off course with what feels like a disturbance from some distant place.
Enter compassion. The question: “Is there a price tag on compassion?” came from the person organizing the conversation and compromise between Minnesota and Arizona to send and receive this tiny bird. Will it cost money? Yes. Lots, I would imagine. I don’t know how that will work out. I am confident that there are those who would scoff at the expense.
But as one who has taken the lead in life from one who believes in the care of the least and the lost, this seems a no brainer. Is there a price tag for compassion? I don’t think so. Compassion flows from the goodness of heart, the kindness of strangers, the blessings of beloved ones.
Today, I am imagining a tiny bird wondering what it in the world happened to its simple, flying, eating-sweet-things life. I am imagining this flash of color inside a flying plane headed south just like the human ones we call ‘snow birds’. I am imagining the moment at which the plane lands, the cage is opened and this fragile being lifts its body into warm, familiar sky and breathes home.
Is there a price tag on compassion? Yes. It takes all we have.