Sunday, January 12, 2014

Smart as Geese?

I took the dogs for a walk this morning because when it's a balmy 40 degrees at 8am on a Sunday in January, you and your fear-reactive dog DO NOT MISS the opportunity to go out at a time when no one else will be around. And no one was. We dodged a few cars, but no other humans or even a loose dog.

But this is not a dog story, although I have them to thank for getting me out the door. This is a goose story. While the dogs were stopped to pee on a leaf or something, I heard geese squawking directly overhead, and I looked up. A flock of 10 or 12 was flying southeast, almost directly into the wind. A little to the west of the main flock, two geese were flying apart. One of them was clearly struggling, and the second goose was coming to help. The second goose got in front of the first and tried to lead the straggler back to the flock, but the first goose continued to struggle and couldn't get turned into the wind. When the second goose realized the first was still flagging, it flew right back and positioned itself ahead of and just to the side of the first, where it would best block the wind.

At this point the dogs wanted to keep moving, but we stopped again half a block later. (I don't know what it's like in your neighborhood, but around here there are millions of leaves on the ground, and they must all be peed on. This Is Important.) So while the dogs were investigating, I looked back at the geese. The straggler and the helper had managed to make their way back to the flock. They were still apart and a little behind, but they were heading in the same direction as the rest of the flock. The one that had been struggling was flying more easily and wasn't going to be left behind.

I was struck with how lucky geese are to be born with the instinct to help each other. We humans have to be taught to help each other, and some of us never learn that lesson, or forget it in the rush to accumulate and the fear that someone else might end up with more. We wrap our selfishness up in platitudes about bootstraps and God helping those who help themselves, and we forget that when a few are struggling, the entire flock--ahem, community--is weakened.

So on this Sunday morning, I'm saying a little prayer that I can learn to be more like a flock of geese, a little less selfish and scared of people with struggles different than my own, and a little more generous with my heart and my resources.

Amen.  


2 comments: