To Be Present With Compassion

by Rachel Creager Ireland

It was a hectic morning and I wasn’t pleased to get all the way home from the park before discovering one of my children was barefoot. I didn’t scold her, nor did I make any attempt to hide my irritation that she’d left her shoes, of all things, in the park. How can you not notice your feet are bare?

On the way back, a bird sitting in the road didn’t move out of the way; I had to swerve around it. I pulled over and waited for traffic to clear so I could investigate. It could hop and almost fly. Both wings seemed to work, but it couldn’t get more than a few inches off the ground. As it hopped away from me it left a dark red drip on the pavement.

The little brown bird was slow enough that I could catch it -once I even thought it let me- yet feisty enough to get out of my hands. I half-carried, half-chased it out of the street, where it ducked into the shelter of some weeds and disappeared. I was relieved not to have to decide how to euthanize the bird. Surely it wouldn’t recover from internal injury; maybe it was no less cruel to let it die on its own. Maybe there was simply nothing I ought to do about or for this creature.

A mile down the road, a turkey vulture flew low across my path, reminding me that this is the way of things, of life: every creature dies sometime; we just get what we get. It’s neither good nor bad, not any sadder than it is joyful that this life existed in the first place, and it’s not my job to do anything about this reality; all I am called to do is to be present, with compassion, and witness as the stories unfold before me.

I tried to photograph the black-capped chickadee that nested in our yard this spring; you can see the fence much better than the bird in this shot.

I tried to photograph the black-capped chickadee that nested in our yard this spring; you can see the fence much better than the bird in this shot.

 

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