Learning from Birds

by Michael McGinnis

There are many kinds of learning. Learning to read is very important, but people have been learning in different ways long before writing was invented. Some of my teachers have been birds.

When I was a boy, I was not always kind to animals. Sometimes I was cruel. When I was 12, my family had gone out one day and I was alone in the house. I decided to play a trick on our budgie who lived in his bird cage in the rec. room. I picked up our cat and came up to the bird cage so the budgie could not see the cat. Then I brought the cat up to the bottom of the cage so his head was suddenly visible to the bird. The bird was so surprised that he fell off his perch onto the floor of the cage. He did not move! I opened the cage and found the bird was dead.

As a boy, I sometimes hurt animals like this. Also, when I was young, sometimes other people harmed me. I learned that when I am cruel to another living thing, even a bird, that my cruelty would come back to me. It is great to know that this also works for good things too. If you are kind to someone else and help them, even an animal, then you may also get help. We call this kind of situation "cause and effect" or "karma". The tricky thing about karma is that the cause often happens a long time before the effect, and you don't see the connection. After I was cruel to the budgie, several weeks or months passed before other kids were cruel to me, so I didn't see the tie until years later. But I finally did see the lesson. The budgie, as well as other animals, and the people that I knew taught me about cruelty, and showed me that kindness is much easier to live with.

When I got older, I realized that each person and animal is Soul. We each have a body that lives and dies, but the most important part of each living thing can not die. Another bird taught me more about this. I was visiting a farm on Vancouver Island which had a nice cherry tree. It was early July and the cherries were red and ripe, but the birds were getting them all. I wanted some cherries and I thought that killing one bird would make the other birds go away. I got a bee bee gun and shot a robin. When I walked over to the robin and saw it dead with a hole in its chest I felt sorry for it and sick to my stomach. I realized that the bird was not just an animal, but it is Soul just as I am. I felt sick for the rest of that day, and that helped me to decide not to hurt anything that isn't hurting me.

Today I am still learning from birds. I enjoy feeding grosbeaks and chickadees who visit the bird feeder in my front yard. They love black sunflower seeds best. I have learned that it is so much more fun to watch them fly around my yard and sing their songs in the trees. Each bird is Soul and it can help us see more clearly the beauty in life all around us. A bird can help us feel with the heart, instead of always thinking with the head. For me, learning how to feel with the heart, to love, is the most important thing to learn of all.

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