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Hard to Swallow

Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

~Mark 12:29-30

Who doesn’t love bluebirds? If you want to show some love to these winged beauties you might build them a home. If you build it to the exact dimensions preferred by them, you can keep other species, like those pesky House Sparrows, from taking up residence. In fact, you can prevent every other species, except Tree Swallows. But there is a trick to increase your chances from 50/50 to 100% that if the box is occupied that it will be with a pair of bluebirds. And what is this magic? Generosity. Yes, to double your odds you need to double your gifts. If you place two boxes close enough to each other (opposite sides of the same post is good) then when one box is occupied, that species will defend the territory from others of its kind, but won’t care one bit if a different species choose to be move in next door. So, if a swallow moves in first, it leaves the other box free for a bluebird neighbor. There are no guarantees that any bird will take up your offer to live in your housing, but even if patience and hospitality don’t bring the result you seek, they are their own reward.

Or perhaps you are more interested in other basic needs like food. Again, you can tailor the offerings in a way that attracts particular species, thistle feeders for the finches, platform feeders for the cardinals and ground feeders, etc. But everyone with a bird feeder knows that there will be a dance, OK, battle, with the squirrels. There are a few relatively successful methods to keep the seed for the birds alone, but many more that are simply exercises in futility. Though it may feel like admitting defeat, the truly best strategy is to train “your” squirrels to expect food in a spot that is all theirs so that their avian siblings can dine without their constant interruptions.

In the final analysis, what is the good of directing your kindnesses to specific individuals? If compassion is contained is it truly compassion? Maybe this is what Jesus meant when we conflated love of God with love of neighbor. Maybe the best, perhaps only, way to love the Creator is to love the entire Creation.

Prayer: God of the bluebird, God of the squirrel, thank your for Creation. Yes, all of it. Amen.


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