29 June 2017

A Bird's Nest and the Limits of Compassion

It's a minor thing but it continues to gnaw at me. My work takes me to many people's homes and I often get a window into how people live and think.

Recently I was waiting for a door to be answered and I noticed a bird's nest resting on the rung of a ladder that was leaned against the house. When the homeowner came out, I mentioned it and the person laughed and said something to the effect that they wouldn't be able to use the ladder again until the fall.
In other words this person was willing to endure the loss of a household tool and the bother and bad appearance of a misplaced ladder in order to not disturb the animal life therein.
Admirable to be sure and I'm hardly one to be concerned about the appearance of an out of place ladder... and yet the comment struck me. Why? Because it was made by someone who has spent their career in the military. It's nothing new. I've encountered this before.
People will bend over backwards to help a wayward bird or preserve a nest and yet seemingly have no conscience about taking a paycheck from an organisation that makes war and has directly and indirectly led to millions of deaths within that person's lifetime. Even as this is written, US officials coordinate the decimation of places like Raqqa, Mosul, Colombia and Yemen. The suffering children and the refugees are not pitied... but they care greatly for the eggs of a robin.
I suppose the same thing could be said with regard to contemporary attitudes regarding pets. I've owned pets and have grown quite fond of them. Our dog had to be put down about a year ago it was a source of grief to all my house. Yet, even if we had the money we would never spend thousands of dollars on surgeries, joint replacements and other such veterinary care. I guess I'm part of the old school. We can love our pets but at the end of the day they are pets. They're animals, not people. The confusion in our culture on this point has reached the point of crisis and it has also infected the Church. Pets are not a replacement for children.
And yet I have found so many that will shell out thousands of dollars for surgeries and treatments for their pets. I actually consider many of these to be cruel in nature as the pet cannot possibly understand what is happening or why. Their owners (and yes they are owners) are applying human thought categories to beasts and it is unjust and wrong-headed on multiple levels.
These same people will spend thousands on their pets and yet rage at the thought of tax money going to provide health-care for the poor. More than once I've sat there listening to the grief and pleadings of a pet-owner describe the procedures they've paid for even while I could not afford such treatments or medications for myself or my children. Clueless regarding the struggles of those who exist outside their class they cannot imagine how their speech resonates within my ears. I keep silent of course. I'm there for work, not to argue with them or tell them how sick they really are.
As a Christian I try to exercise wisdom and watch for those right moments where I can sow a little seed, where I can find a chink in the armour and speak words of wisdom wherein the Spirit might open a wider door.
Don't get me wrong. I love birds. We have a rather irritating Phoebe nest outside our back door. It's making a mess and I won't be sorry when the chicks have moved on. Yet, I would never dream of putting birds above people.
It could probably be argued that some view animals as innocent and people as corrupted and therefore they will at times feel compassion for animals that just doesn't translate when it comes to people. It's understandable and I know exactly how they feel. I'm always fearful that in a world of abounding iniquity my love will grow cold. And while it's perhaps easier to love animals than people, we need to keep a proper perspective.

I'm probably not the most compassionate person but I will say this. I strive and labour to make sure that my life and work are not exploitative and harmful to others. While I'm not out labouring in refugee camps, I'm certainly not working for organisations that are creating the crises that lead to people living in refugee camps. I suppose that is what irritated me the most and was what offended me. This person with the bird nest on the ladder is in my eyes a blood profiteer. They feed on the suffering of others and yet will bend over backwards to give aid to a bird or a dog.