Most Thursday's I spend at least part of the day birding. Rare sightings are part of what makes for an extra special birding adventure. Today I went birding at Ives Run Recreation Area and I did experience the joy of a rare sighting.
But today's rare sighting was not a bird.
I was driving my car and was just about to the second parking lot when, looking ahead, I could see two people making their way along the level pathway with beautiful pines on either side. It was evident that they were engaged in watching wildlife of some kind and enjoying the outdoors together. One of them walking and the other in a motorized wheelchair.
I parked the car and then I started down the same path, but they were far ahead of me and already out of sight. I am pleased to say that I was able to locate the birds that I believe they had been watching together when I first pulled into the parking lot. A flock of cedar waxwings were busy gulping down berries in the smaller trees close to the road. In my opinion cedar waxwings are some of the most beautiful songbirds that are so easy to overlook. Here is a photo of them:
As my heart filled with joy and appreciation for these beautiful birds, my mind wandered back to those two people ahead of me. I got to thinking that if not for the person confined to a wheelchair, the one with the ability to walk could have hiked one of the more rugged trails. If he had done so, he may have gained something in his experience of the forest, but something would surely be lost not just for the one in the wheelchair but for both of these friends.
The example of Jesus has something to teach us about including others in life's experiences. Looking at the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it is clear that he spent much of his time with people who were broken in mind, body, and spirit. Jesus reached out to include those who were different, those who were overlooked, and those who were unwanted. It is also clear that in doing so Jesus enjoyed life with the people with whom he spent his time.
If we are to follow the example of Jesus I think perhaps this pair enjoying the great outdoors together, one by foot and another by wheelchair, is a shining example for the rest of us to follow.
Let us make no distinction in the value of a life, acknowledging that all are known, loved, and empowered by God to live lives that are rooted in relation with God and given in love and service to each other.
We would do well to see those who are living with broken bodies, minds, and spirits not as people to pity but as people to enjoy life with. After all, if we are being honest I think we all carry some brokenness even if ours is hidden beneath what others can see on the surface. Considering the person in the wheelchair and the one with healthy legs; the Spirit of God is at work empowering each of these to live as a wounded healer for the other as they enjoy life together.
The Spirit of God empowers all of us to live as wounded healers, each of us with and for the other.
Finding God, self, and community in wild spaces. The better we know our wild neighbors the more we'll discover ourselves.
A vision informed by Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of sauntering, Jesus’ understanding of neighbor, Aldo Leopold’s concept of thinking like a mountain, Rachel Carson’s prophetic voice and John Muir’s way of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of wild neighbors with words.