No Small Kindnesses


It is like a mustard seed which people plant in the soil: it is the smallest of all the earth’s seeds, yet once it is sown, it springs up to become the largest of shrubs, with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.~ Mark 4: 31-32

The American war on weeds went nuclear with the invention of DDT. Unfortunately there was significant avian collateral damage. Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons nearly didn’t make it. Thankfully, we set our minds to recovery and assisted all these species, which are now doing quite well. Ospreys and Eagles are populating their original wild habitats again, while the assistance to Peregrines took an unexpected turn.

Peregrines are fond of nesting on cliff ledges, finding the updrafts that are created particularly helpful for soaring before stooping on their unsuspecting prey. Luckily for them, we humans have created lots of those habitats. We call them cities. On top of that, urban habitats also attract a lot of falcon food in the form of Pigeons and Starlings. So all that was needed was to convince pairs to take up residence in these hospitable places. By using hack boxes, where young birds can be placed and nurtured until they fledge, the hope was that they would return to the same territory as adults and find mates. The strategy worked well enough that it is now normal to expect Peregrines in urban environments more regularly than rural ones. Here in Waterville, the abandoned factory across from Head of Falls is the place they call home and I’ve seen Peregrine Falcons hunting in my neighborhood. In fact, in the first months of living here, from my home I saw one hassling a Bald Eagle who had strayed a tad farther away from its territory than the falcon found acceptable.

It is great when we can see great success from small acts. It adds to the motivation to act on small intentions. Jesus was saying that when he spoke of how the tiny mustard seed grows to a large plant. We often too quickly discount the little that we are capable of. But there are no small kindnesses, no little acts of mercy. Kindness and mercy are always huge to the recipient.

Prayer: Most merciful, rather than be surprised that you know the number of the hairs on our heads, may it instead remind us that small things matter and thus lead us to watering our mustard seeds. Amen.

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