Meg and I were walking on the beach and came upon a young seabird in distress. He was staggering around and didn’t seem to be able to use his wings. We called a local wildlife rescue line and left a message. Later that evening, June called us back. It was probably a young grebe, she said. They aren't meant to walk on the beach; they’re water birds. If he was on the beach, he was probably in distress.
June called Jim who called me and asked for more precise directions to where we had seen the bird. He said he would go out and try to rescue it when he got off work at eleven. June had given me her home number and Jim gave me his cell phone, for next time. They also told me where in the future we could take birds in distress.
Meg and I walked that same beach the next day and didn’t see the bird, so here’s hoping Jim helped him. Thanks, Jim. Thanks, June.
Jim and June are amazing, but not extraordinary. We humans do this kind of thing all the time. We rescue birds and whales and sea otters. On other days we (presumably not the exact same people) behead infidels or shoot at a car that has cut us off on the road and kill the toddler passenger.
It’s enough to make you ask: Who are we? Are we Jim and June or ISIS and road-rager?
Both, is the obvious answer. But why? Why aren't we one or the other, preferably the nicer one? How can both our kindness and our anger be so intense?
Evolution, you say. As a species we needed both to survive. I suppose. But I don’t think anyone is going to attack June or Jim for helping stranded birds. They don’t need anger to protect themselves.
We could learn a lesson from them, a prescription for a better life: Walk along a dark beach at eleven at night, after a long day of work, to find a frightened and helpless bird, wrap it in a blanket, keep it warm and feed it, and when it is strong enough let it go.