Notes From The Unknown: Day 91

We all have more in common than we don’t.

Please discuss. How does this play out in life?

I’ll start us out. With societal and political tensions high, it’s so easy to judge others. We separate ourselves by drawing dividing lines in our hearts, and then form firm and often uncomplimentary opinions about the folks we place on the other side of the line. We mostly know this is wrong, yet somehow it seems to have become our national sport. The more we judge, the more sure of ourselves we become, the more we judge. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that strips others, in our eyes, of the humanity and dignity we actually share in common.

Today’s message reminds me that I share commonality with all creation, and not just humans. For some years, we’ve been feeding birds and squirrels at our house. Inevitably some of the seed would spill from the feeder to the ground. It often went to waste. Last year a raccoon began to visit nightly and hoover up the leavings. I enjoyed occasional glimpses of Rollo, as I called him, and was happy to see the leftovers put to good use.

In this year of COVID-19, we had noticed many more birds—and some new species too—at the feeder. Perhaps they were bolder with less people out and about, perhaps other people hadn’t been able to continue putting out bird food. For whatever reason, in the last month or two our daily ration of bird food had begun to disappear more quickly than usual.

Rollo also began nocturnal break ins of the steel garbage can on our porch we use to store bird food. He was smart enough to foil increasingly complex bungee cord arrangements intended to deter him, but had not yet learned to put the lid back on the can. This sometimes resulted in damp bird seed on rainy nights.

For me the final straw was when he pooped on the porch next to the garbage can a few days ago. Muttering to myself, I reviewed options as I scrubbed up the mess. I contemplated putting a heavy paving stone atop the can lid, but rejected the idea for fear Rollo would drop it and hurt himself. I finally settled on animal communication bribery: “If you don’t mess with the can of bird seed, I’ll put out a couple of dates for you nightly.”

This worked like a charm—for a couple of nights—and then I woke to find the can lid removed again. Chagrined, as I filled the bird feeder that morning I noticed the ground underneath it was totally bare of spillage. I realized that deprived of the overflow bird seed he had come to rely on, Rollo had inventively decided to take matters into his own paws. He wasn’t mischievous; he was hungry.

That realization helped me connect the dots. Like me, Rollo had recently lost a source of abundance he relied on. Like me, he needed to explore new ways to meet his needs. That evening, I filled a small plastic bowl with bird seed along with a couple of bonus dates, and placed it in the middle of the driveway. A few nights have passed and the lid on the can of bird seed remains undisturbed. Last night, I was able to observe Rollo dining. When he found the dates, he appeared to be smacking his lips, and I swear he smiled at me. Moral of the story: when you struggle to understand someone’s behavior, look for the commonalities between you.

How about you? What helps you feel compassionate toward others?

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