It's amazing how a seemingly innocuous event today can trigger memories of incidents long forgotten. The long-ago memory is a single image burned into my mind of a toad, of all things. I was perhaps seven or eight when I saw this particular toad. It was big and fat, and badly hurt. A neighborhood friend had deliberately dropped a large rock on it, bursting it wide open, its bloody entrails spread out over the sidewalk as it still struggled to breathe and move. I couldn't stand to see it suffer, so I took the rock and finished it off, then went tearfully home. I failed then and now to see what pleasure anyone could derive from deliberately inflicting suffering upon another, and yet this sad world has forever been witness to such evil.
This memory flashed into my consciousness this morning as I rescued an English sparrow that had flown into the window near our bird feeders. I saw it half-sitting, half-laying on the ground as I was replenishing the supply, picked it up and brought it inside for little Gemma to see. I called her to me, showed her this tiny bird warming up in my hand, and gave it to her to hold. We found an old box, lined it with a hand towel liberated from the bathroom, and gently laid the sparrow to rest. Gemma decided that it must be cold, so took a tissue and made a little bird blanket. Every few minutes she checked to see how it was doing, not noticing when its little breast stopped moving, thinking it was just sleeping.
It has been said that a good early predictor of sociopathy is how children treat animals. I don't know what ever happened to my childhood friend, but I am grateful tonight for a little four-year old girl whose tender heart led her to do what she could to ease the suffering of a little sparrow. Even at this early age she is being taught kindness and empathy, virtues that will stand her in good stead throughout her life. Linda tried to explain to her that the sparrow had died and gone to heaven where Jesus is, and where it could fly again. Gemma wanted to know if she would be able to see it tomorrow when she came to visit. Some things are beyond four-year old imagination, but she will see other English sparrows, which is about as close as we'll be able to come to resurrection for now. It's OK. Her faith and understanding will grow as she grows, and the compassion she now feels will mature to bless others who will cross her path, and it will be enough to gladden this old heart as it walks into that night that awakens to a greater dawn.