Making a Difference. Bird Bully Gets His in the Beak.

Sometime in 2011 world population is going to hit 7 billion people. 

I can't even relate to that. I mean, what does 7 billion look like? Well, according to National Geographic, not as much as you might think. The big brains at that organization say all 7 billion of us, standing shoulder to shoulder, could fit inside Los Angeles:


(That's me, second from the left there. See? The one waving, with a bit of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia dribbling off of her chin.)

How in the world do you stand out in a crowd like that? How do you make a difference? If I'm jumping up and down screaming and waving, you're still not going to notice me. Clearly, trying desperately to be heard is not going to do it. You'd have to not just make noise, but make unique noise. Something that could be heard above the crowd, or outside the crowd, or instead of the crowd. You'd have to be seriously unusual.

So, maybe that's not it.

When I was a kid we lived in Maryland in front of a gorgeous, vine-filled, tree-packed forest. The result was that our yard was like an aviary. We were regularly visited by everything from oriels and cardinals, to bluejays, chickadees, and your basic robin redbreast. We also had a great abundance of crows and sparrows.

Once, after a terrific rainstorm that brought the entire earthworm population up into our yard for a pool-party, my mom stood in our kitchen and watched enough birds descend upon our yard to send Alfred Hitchcock into paroxysms of delight. Our little plot contained a veritable smorgasbord for our avian friends, and they knew it. I'm not sure there was one bird in that forest that didn't come to our place for a little bite of worm-mignon.

Everything was going along munchingly for the birds, when my mom noticed a particularly fat redbreast bopping about the yard. He'd go up to the smaller birds, wait for them to come up with a worm in their beaks, and then peck and harass them until they dropped their lunch. Hunting, bully-style. It was easy pickins for him; every little birdie-dude and dudette was afraid of the big lummox. They'd give up their worm, then beat it out of there. Clearly Mr. Robin FatBreast had found an M.O. that worked, and he plied it with glee.

Then he came upon a bird of a different feather. This new little sparrow-guy was hopping around plucking up worms, happy as can be, when along came evil Sir Red and pecked him on the head. Littlebird jumped in surprise and lost his worm. It was instantly snapped up. But instead of flying away, this sparrow just hopped to another part of the yard and began hunting again. Big Ugly clearly thought he'd found some sport, and probably didn't like that his victim hadn't flown away, so he followed. And the whole scenario played out again: littlebird found a worm, and Big Ugly pecked it away from him. Once more, the sparrow hopped away, and big bird followed.

This happened over and over again as my mom watched. And I've gotta tell you, if it had been me I'd've been out that door yelling at the robin faster than you could say . . . a whole lot of things. But before my mom could move, something interesting happened: Mr. Sparrow apparently had been mulling his situation, and made a decision. When Big Bad Dude came up once more to steal his worm, the little guy turned and stuffed the worm right into his nemesis' beak. It wasn't violent. He didn't shove it. Just kind of stuck it in there. Almost like a gift.

The Redbreast stood stock-still for a few seconds, worm in his mouth and eyes blinking, staring at the sparrow. The sparrow just stared calmly back.

And then the Robin flew away.

So. What's my point? Out of hundreds of birds in my yard, the one that stood out from the crowd was the one who patiently bided his time, thought things through, and did something simple. Maybe even something kind of nice, in the bird world. And his difficulty left. Little dude just turned around and started eating worms again. And this time there were a lot more for him to choose from.

I've gotta think that's how it is for us as human beings on this face-filled planet. Or at least, that's how it should be. Not that we should stuff worms in the mouths of our detractors, or even those who don't seem to see our value. But I think being patient enough to watch and learn would be a good thing. And then when we act, it will be calm, effective, make sense, and take care of our obstacles. And who knows? Maybe that approach will leave us with a lot more options too.

What's more, even if we don't stand out among 7 billion people, I'll bet we'll stand out in our own crowd. Calm thoughtful people with a plan are needed like nothing else in this world, it seems to me.

My new mantra? "Be the Sparrow."

About Janiel 432 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. Oooooooooom. Oooooooom. Feel the sparrow. Be the sparrow. I AM the sparrow. Ooooooom. I am most grateful for your wisdom, Sensei.

    Young Grasshopper

  2. Janiel, Darling story. I love watching the animal kingdom too. My favorite is how synchronized a flock of birds is in flight. I remember the first time I was disilusioned at the gentle appearance of deer. I had lurred them close to the cabin with bread and although I had plenty for all, the larger ones kept pushing the Bambies away, even jumping and kicking at them.

    So, where in Maryland?- I visit my mother in Cumberland- she was born in Midlothian, and my father’s people are from Baltmore. Needless to say 3/4’s of my genealogy research efforts have been in Maryland.

  3. @Darcee – I lived in Prince George’s County, in a town called Oxon Hill. The section I lived in is now called Fort Washington. It was right outside of the Beltway. My dad was in the Air Force and worked in DC. So, I’m not really from there. But I spent more years there than any other place–about 4.5. Germany came in second at 3.5. I loved it in both places. Did you ever live in Maryland?

    Yeah, animals can be amazing and horrifying at the same time.

    @Young Grasshopper – Use your sparrow-wisdom to banish the narcissistic robin that keeps bashing into its reflection in your window. Then you will truly be wise.


  4. I lived in Maryland just one year, it was the year after I graduated High School in Florida.

    It was a move back home for my mother as she was from there and it was the geneaolgy bug drove her there. She was able to get a lot of work done before her older relatives passed away. Although Small town western Maryland can be quaint, I was grateful to move on to BYU once mom was settled in.

    Funny, my long-standing BFF was an airforce brat. We still visit even though she lives in Florida and I in Utah.

  5. That was an amazing observation…I probably wouldn’t have even sat there long enough to notice. I love your summary…stellar!

  6. Thanks Lisa! I think my mom was able to stare long enough at the birds to see it because it was her one moment of peace from her 5 kids.

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