This is the true story of a little bird named Larry as told to me by one of my clients last week.
Okay, maybe his name isn’t really Larry, but who can resist honoring a basketball great and being a complete cheese ball at the same time? Not this gal.
To protect my client’s confidentiality and peace of mind, we’ll refer to her as Dr. DoGood. All you need to know is that she is an amazing pediatrician with a beautiful mind, a heart of gold and is truly an exceptional human being. But let’s get back to Larry.
Larry’s story began one evening after Dr. DoGood came home from a shift at the hospital. She was excited to be home after a long day and was making herself some dinner when she noticed a strange sound in her backyard. An animal was clearly in distress and she wanted to see what was going on, so she went outside to check out the scene.
There he was. Larry the bird. Or rather, Larry the fledgling. On the ground, surrounded by gravel and plastic. Desperately chirping to get his mother’s attention, she guessed, because he wasn’t flying anywhere and seemed distraught.
Wait a minute, could he even fly?
From what she could see, the answer to that question was “no” and like the caring soul that she is, she decided that not helping the bird was not an option. She consulted a couple of neighbors but nobody really knew what to do with little Larry. She finally called animal control and was told by the switchboard operator to pick up the bird and put it somewhere safe while they sent someone to pick it up.
Into a cloth-lined shower caddy Larry went, but three hours later nobody had arrived to claim him. It was 11:00 p.m. and Dr. DoGood desperately wanted to go to bed. Larry didn’t seem to be feeling very comfortable in his new home on the kitchen counter and away from his mom so she called animal control again. This time she was lucky enough to actually speak to an animal expert and not the operator. His first question was very strange:
“Does the bird have a tail?” asked the wildlife expert.
“Okay. Put it back.”
“What do you mean put it back! It can’t even fly yet! It’s going to get eaten!”
“Look lady, you’ve actually interrupted a crucial part of its development. This is how birds learn how to fly. There’s a fair amount of falling to the ground in the process. It’s normal. They sometimes leave the nest before they’re ready but that’s how they grow.”
“But why was he on the ground for so long? That doesn’t seem normal. Should he be alone this long?” inquired Dr. DoGood.
“His mom was probably watching him, and you, even with your good intentions, interrupted the flow of the ritual. You have to let nature take its course. Trust me.”
Dr. DoGood decided to follow instructions and put the bird on the ledge of a broken flower pot next to a Home Depot bucket that says “Let’s DO This” so he could “at least be off the ground and be closer to his mom.” She went to bed feeling uncomfortable and thinking about the helpless fledgling and hoping that a cat wouldn’t eat him as she slept.
When she woke up early the next morning and after pouring herself a cup of tea she decided to see if Larry was still on the flower pot. To her relief but also disappointment, he was…chirping away and still looking confused. Pretty much the same Larry as yesterday. Simultaneously adorable and pathetic. Still no tail and apparently no dignity.
“Do something dammit!” she thought. She couldn’t help but laugh at the uneventful nature of the scene and went upstairs to get ready for work.
A half hour later, freshly showered and dressed, she again checked to make sure that Larry was still there. He wasn’t. Again, to her relief and disappointment, but this time for different reasons.
She scouted the area for feathers to see if he’d been eaten by a cat and if there had been a struggle but found nothing. Whew! That was good. Maybe he had been rescued by his clearly insensitive mother after all. Little Larry had made it. Good for him.
Jeez, being a bird must be hard.
Dr. DoGood went to work and life went on. Larry was well on his way to becoming just another memory when two days after Birdgate she noticed a lot of chirping coming from her back yard again. This time it actually sounded happy and seemed to come from more than one source. She went outside and after some time searching in a tree she was happily surprised to find a bird’s nest. There was what looked and sounded like a mom and her two or three babies chirping away fighting for her attention.
Oh my goodness could it be Larry and his family?
She wasn’t certain but she sure hoped so. She observed the happy bird family for a while and when she was ready to go back inside she felt a jolt of clarity.
“Wait a minute, of course it was Larry!” she mused as she walked away. “That’s just the way the Universe rolls. Duly noted, thank you.”
So why is The Tale of Larry the Bird so compelling? What can we learn from our very own fuzzy, yet featherless #33, our little bird who, unlike his namesake, had no game and still made it against very improbable odds?
Well for starters, Larry’s tale, like any good fable, offers a wonderful life metaphor worthy of some exploration. There are lessons on offer from all the characters in the story. In this particular case there are three.
Lesson #1: We are all Larry. We have all been at one point or another thrown into a sink-or-swim situation. We’ve felt disoriented, we’ve felt lost, we’ve felt alone. We’ve been in situations where we aren’t ready to reach our goal yet, and we are forced to grow into our new lives. We’ve all been vulnerable and helpless. Vulnerable, helpless and fragile. But you know what? We’ve made it this far and we should be looking forward to a future of more incidents like this one. Why?
If we’re doing things right, we should embrace situations that take us out of our comfort zone like this one because they offer valuable opportunities for growth. Meaningful change isn’t comfortable. It’s usually hard and happens in circumstances that force us to stretch and adapt—to challenge our emotions and face the fear, to take the time to “grow a tail” and evolve through the uncertainty. To play big even though we feel small. We are not as helpless as we appear to be…even to ourselves.
Lesson #2: Unlike Larry, when faced with a seemingly insurmountable task, we can actually choose our way forward. We can choose to stay outside, brave the elements and trust that things are going to work out or we can call our own version of Dr. DoGood to intervene and build a shower caddy and jump in to protect ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, Dr. DoGood did a good deed by trying to save Larry and build him a safe home while he got the help she felt he needed. However, how many of us become our own Dr. DoGood and build artificial safety nets, (our own versions of shower caddies) even before we try to go without them? Before we confirm we even need them in the first place? How many of us allow our fear of the unknown to hinder our embrace of change as natural and stunt our growth? Can we approach life without building those walls around us?
Yes, and it can make us free—but why is a shower caddy-free life liberating? Because we tend to build our shower caddies according to what we believe society wants in the pursuit of a false perfection. We protect ourselves because we are terrified of getting hurt, without acknowledging that pain leads us to a better understanding of ourselves and deeper, more fulfilling experiences. We build our shower caddies with self-imposed limitations.
I ask, who can truly grow in a padded room with limited geography and perspective?
Lesson #3: You are both wildlife and the wildlife expert. It’s time to become participant and observer in your life. It’s time to recognize that you are the fauna of your story and to let your inner wildlife expert lead to greater self-understanding as you roam around in the wild. If you do, you’ll be more adept at recognizing when nature is taking its course and will have an easier time allowing the process to flow without freaking out.
It’s risk and reward. As wildlife and wildlife expert, you will understand calculated risks as part of the process, and they will become a big source of enjoyment and something to look forward to.
Fly little bird, fly! The first few landings may be rough but it will be well worth it in the long run.
Well dear friend, I hope you can get at least some part of what I did out of the Tale of Larry the Bird. It has been a huge source of reflection and joy for me this week and I’m excited to share it with you. Before you carry on with your day though, I’d like to pose a discussion question:
In the game of life, who do you choose to be?
B) Dr. DoGood
C) The Wildlife Expert
D) None of the Above.
After some thought I chose D) None of the Above as my answer. Why you may ask?
I choose to be the Home Depot bucket.
Author: Jenniffer Green
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own