I don’t exactly live in the wilderness, but I certainly don’t live in a concrete jungle. The most common creatures I see on a walk through my neighborhood are deer, songbirds, and the occasional Scottish terrier followed by the traditional senior, suburban citizen.
So, I wasn’t really surprised when walking with my mother recently to find a robin. What was rather intriguing was the fact that it was in the middle of a quiet road and that it let us get ridiculously close to it. Being the adventurers we are, we were thoroughly curious, but we knew that our proximity probably wasn’t a good sign. We knew something had to be wrong with it. Trying to inspect it, we didn’t see anything at first, but we weren’t convinced that it was a healthy omen of spring.
I should also mention at this point that in addition to being adventurers, we are also do-gooders. And we couldn’t let this poor robin sit in the middle of the road. Sure, it was a quiet street, but it was a street nonetheless. We had to figure out how to move the robin out of more danger’s way. It certainly wasn’t afraid of us, but it didn’t react to our incredibly convincing “shooing” gestures either. What could we do?
I finally decided that I would have to pick it up. But just shy of cupping him or her in my bare hands, I took off my shirt. (I had a shirt underneath, you dirty birds). I tried to swaddle him when he started to hop forward. When I went to attempt it again, he moved a couple more inches. By the time that I corralled him to the curb, without having to touch him, a car was patiently waiting for me to finish my half-hearted rescue mission. Time had run out, and this was all that we could do for the creature.
As we started to walk away, I heard my mother conclude that here was something wrong with its wing, so for better or worse, we had to leave it at the side of the road. Like a helicopter parent on the first day of kindergarten, we kept looking over our shoulder as we walked on. It didn’t comfort my nerves or my stomach that I saw plenty of hawks flying over my head as we trudged home, minds turned to the inevitable circle of life.
In addition to being an adventurer and a do-gooder, I am apparently also a masochist. I returned the next day to the spot, with one eye squinting as if I had eaten something sour, not wanting to see what I thought I would see. No small robin carcass rotting in the sun, though. Once again, I was thoroughly surprised. But this time, I was also overjoyed. I started walking again, a spring in my step.
Until I realized that it could have been scooped up by a hungry, flying predator, with no evidence of a struggle to leave behind. (The reason for my masochism, of course). The thought made me cringe and lose any happiness I felt when I saw the absence of a small corpse.
But then, I slowly realized, as I kept walking, that my happiness was never hinged on whether the robin would survive. It was only about doing what I could to help it, however insignificant to the grand scheme of it all. And I knew that even though my second thought had been rather morbid, it was only my first expression of hope that truly mattered. It was only the fact that I had tried, even though it had been possibly in vain and what I hoped to be true.
Belief is all about what we can’t see. What you choose to believe is completely up to you, especially when there is very little evidence of a foregone conclusion. And so, you define your own happiness or your own sorrow in the very idea of what you believe in.
I didn’t want that robin to die, and I choose to believe that he or she didn’t. I could be wrong, and I could be right. But I can’t prove either. And isn’t that wonderful that it doesn’t matter at all?