Great Article on Mockingbirds, Understanding, and Revenge

August 5, 2009 — Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, I spoke about revenge in my sermon, so Paul William’s article, And So It Goes in Christian Standard’s Enewsletter caught my attention.

Are there any mockingbirds you’re trying to kill?

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Paul Williams

The infernal sound woke me at 5:30. I thought it was a car alarm. When it happened again the next morning, it dawned on me. I had a northern mockingbird outside my window.

The volume was incredible, twice as loud as any robin, blue jay, or cardinal I’ve ever heard. I tried earplugs and pulling a pillow over my head, both to no avail. The mockingbird pegged the decibel meter morning after morning.

I tolerated the bird the first year. The second spring I went to war. I borrowed a BB gun from my secretary. She insisted I take the safety goggles as well.

Early one Saturday I tiptoed into the backyard, BB gun in hand, and waited by the patio table. I spotted him at about 6:15, sitting on the power line that stretched from the pole to the house. Before I could raise the gun he was gone—hiding in the top of a neighbor’s sugar maple. He made a few more runs from the tree to the power line to the roof of the house, but I never had a clear shot. I went inside at about 8:00, equal parts ashamed for wanting to kill the poor bird, and discouraged for being so inept with a BB gun.

My ambush having proven fruitless, I figured I needed more information. I googled “killing mockingbirds” but all the references were to Harper Lee’s book. I knew it was not an instruction manual.

Then I googled “mockingbirds.” What I found was astounding. A male mockingbird has as many as 200 songs in his repertoire. Males and females build their nest together, and may call on other mockingbirds to protect the nest in the event of attack. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. “These are incredibly fascinating birds,” I told my wife.

With dripping sarcasm she replied, “So, you still need that BB gun?”

It is amazing how much empathy and understanding a little knowledge can bring. The mad chirping of a mockingbird becomes a song of survival. A neighbor you’ve shied away from becomes a good friend. A nation you’ve never understood, once visited, becomes a delightful destination. Shining light into darkness often brings surprising joy.

We sold the house three years ago. Bobby, the new owner, says the mockingbird is still there. He doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe he knows something about mockingbirds too.

I gave the BB gun back to my secretary. She was relieved I hadn’t shot my eye out.

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