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Wisdom from a Bird Brain


by David DeFord

This article is from the Lessons from Nature series. If you would like to submit your articles or ideas for this series, send them to me at ddeford@ordinarypeoplecanwin.com.

Howard W. Hunter witnessed an impressive display of wisdom in an exchange by two birds—a parent and chick. He said,

“It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.

“Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.

“The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.” [Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, April 1972, p. 95]

The parent bird obviously felt it was time for the chick to learn to feed himself. If she had continued bearing the responsibility for feed the chick, the tiny bird would have abdicated that responsibility for too long. Better to know how to feed oneself than to depend on others to feed us.

We observed that lesson in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Most took responsibility for their families’ safety and fled north before the devastation hit. They found generous communities willing to assist them.

Others waited for the government to transport them out of harm’s way, to provide food, clothing, shelter, and other services. They complained when the government couldn’t keep up with the demand. Ten or eleven months later, they felt misused when the generous hotels withheld further lodging.

I don’t blame the individuals as much as I do their enablers. We can learn a valuable lesson when we compare Hunter’s birds and the experiences of our fellow humans.

Abdicating responsibility is as addicting and as destructive as the most powerful narcotics. Once on that path the victims must suffer the symptoms of withdrawal before they can break their dependence.

Accepting accountability for our stations in life, on the other hand, can free us. Taking personal responsibility liberates us from the shackles of dependence that chain us to the walls of mediocrity and disappointment.

I challenge you to take control of your life. Take personal responsibility for your health. Get your finances in order. Improve your family by improving your role in it. See a need in your community? Fill it.

No mama bird will assume responsibility for you. Aren’t you glad?

You can soar high above the trees and travel to the destinations of your dreams by choosing to fly.


Related Quotes

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory. General George Patton

If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life which you have imagined, you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau

Self-trust is the first secret of success. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. Winston Churchill

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can’t find them, make them. George Bernard Shaw


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