Monday, November 23, 2009

An Unexpected Lesson in Kindness

We've all heard the sayings "practice what you preach" and "actions speak louder than words". This is something that Meredith and I always try to live by. You will see us herding chickens down a city street to the safety of their own yard, racing in front of cars to stop traffic and save a puppy/kitten/dog/cat/child and stopping during our dog walking to offer advice to other dog owners. Actually, I don't think we try. Yoda always said "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." We will do things without thinking because it's second nature to us. Afterwards, we may think to ourselves that it wasn't the smartest move running in front of the city bus to grab the poodle that everyone was simply watching skitter in and out and around cars or confront the large, tatooed man for hitting his German Shepherd repeatedly until it urinates because it walked in front of him while he was on his cell phone and it tripped him. At the time, we simply act. Kindness is second nature to us. Some people may say it's first nature. As educators, we are always looking for the lesson in each situation. Sometimes, the lesson escapes us. I had an experience last month that spoke volumes to me and I feel everyone can learn from.

It happened at one of the schools I was teaching at. After my first class, I happened upon a pigeon sitting on the asphalt inbetween classrooms. The pigeons around the schoolyards seem very brave so I thought nothing of the fact that it didn't move as I approached it. When I was almost on top it, the bird tried to hop feebly away from me. I noticed that it's leg was horribly bent at an odd angle and it had one wing that was clearly broken as it flopped uselessly at its side. When I got to my next class, I asked the teacher for a box to put the bird in so that I could take it somewhere to get it help. I was astounded when the teacher acknowledged that the bird had been there "for days". The kids had been picking the bird up when they were out on breaks and at lunch. Other than making the kids wash their hands to prevent the spread of some disease they didn't know the name of but were sure the bird had, no one had done anything to help this poor pigeon who was obviously suffering. Not only was the bird in pain, it also was suffering at the hands of curious children. The kids didn't mean any harm. They were excited that a bird was letting them pick it up. The pigeon, though, was clearly trying to get away so I'm sure it was traumatic for it as giant hands scooped it up and loud voices squeeled in delight. To a pigeon, even children seem huge. The teacher was kind enough to let me leave the box and bird in her classroom until my long break when I could get the bird help. The best part of this was that my next class was a 2nd grade class - our Kindness presentation. What better lesson than the bird? All the children had seen the bird in the yard for days now. When I mentioned the bird to the classs, they all nodded their heads vigorously with a few offering "he's been there all week!" I told the class that I had caught the bird and it was now resting safely in a box until I could take it for help. Children are very caring. I'm not sure when we stop learning to care about the little creatures that surround us. I am very lucky that I get to work with young children who still have that empathy. I asked the class how they would feel if a giant was scooping them off the ground while they had a broken leg and arm and couldn't get away? The class was quiet. One of the children offered softly, "I would be really scared." My lesson had hit home. I was able to use the pigeon as an example for the rest of the week.

When I had a break in the schedule, I called the local wildlife rescue. They were extremely friendly, giving me many options on where to take the hurt bird. I opted for the local ASPCA as it was closest. Unfortunately, the bird was too injured to save. They humanely euthanized him. This was a much better end than suffering on the playground until a stray animal got ahold of him or he starved to death. I don't think that the teachers at that school didn't act because they were unkind. I think they simply didn't realize how easy it was to help in this situation. I didn't know how easy it was either until I jumped in to do it. I have never rescued a bird before. I didn't know what it entailed. However, I wasn't going to simply leave the pigeon suffering in the yard because I lacked the knowledge. I was going to get the bird out of the situation and figure out to help it. My kind act cost me a total of thirty minutes of my day, including my phone calls, but it was priceless to that poor, hurting animal.

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