The voice on the phone sounds scared, sniffling as if it has been crying, making it hard to understand. It’s 6:00 in the morning, on a Sunday! But the tiny voice asks if I can come by the house.
I walk down the street and find my neighbor, Emilia, and her daughter, Lori, hunched over their rosebushes, looking at something. Emilia reaches me first and explains that since 3:00 a.m. they have heard this sound, this bird, and they don’t know if it is dying, or what it needs. They have watched over it most of the night.
I watch Lori gently stroke the bird. The bird is about six inches long, with feathers of beautiful, amazing colors. I have never seen a bird like that in our neighborhood. I see the anguish. This is the first time Lori, 4, has to witness pain on a precious being. She looks at me with tears in her eyes, and for a moment I imagine that if she blinked, the tears of this sweet, innocent child could make the petals of the rosebushes fall all around her.
* * *
The veterinarian has a diagnosis: The bird has a broken wing. The veterinarian says it is common when birds are in unfamiliar terrain, when they are lost, to sometimes get hurt.
As we wait in the front room, Lori tells me she heard the bird first, and gestures with her hands, explaining how she found it. She cups her hand, tells me she carried it this way, holds it to her heart, and says: “I don’t think the bird lost its way. I just think that right now it has a broken wing.”
I watch as she sits, her legs dangling from the chair, elbows resting on her knees, shins under her tiny hands. She is worried. She asks if the bird will fly again. I think so.
The bird returns home with Emilia and Lori. For six weeks I visit Lori, and she shows me how to change bandages on the wings, shows me how she feeds the bird; a little girl caring for a beautiful, colorful bird. I wonder what the bird has seen in flight. Roses? Lori?
* * *
Weeks have passed. The bird’s wing is healed. Lori has found a place to release the bird. We travel quietly in the car as she talks softly to the bird in its tiny cage. We are all anxious to see the bird fly. And it does. Its wings have more color in them than I thought: red, blue, yellow, a heavenly paintbrush guided by God’s hands gives us humans a taste of what is truly beautiful and miraculous. We watch the bird fly, slowly taking steps, then beginning to soar, and Lori runs after it, laughing. It leaves a vacancy in my heart as I see the beautiful bird fly away, our world a better place because of caring for one of God’s beautiful creatures.
That evening, after Lori has gone to bed, I sit with Emilia on her porch. She moved to Texas after divorcing an abusive husband. Her family and her church turned their backs on her. So she packed her bags and brought Lori to Texas. Emilia works in a marketing firm. She tells me she still wakes up with fear in the middle of the night. She tells me she is alone; she often feels lost and scared. I realize: I am her neighbor; she is not alone.
She wipes the tears from her eyes and asks what I think about her pathetic story. Pathetic?
I smile and remind her of little Lori’s words: I don’t think the bird lost its way. I just think that right now it has a broken wing.
She smiles. I tell her I have had many broken wings. But the beauty of removing the bandage is to see the beautiful colors, the laughter, the hope, the healing, and the grace we are given to fly, knowing we have a safety net in God.
Emilia holds my hand and says: “I think God gave us beautiful colors to honor Him.” She smiles at the stars.