I was heading home from the grocery store. It was dusk.
I took one of my favorite side streets home and was the only car on it, so I drove slowly and took everything in. The street is well known for tidy yards, manicured gardens, house flags and illuminated walkways, and what was left of the day’s light made everything look warm and inviting against the evening’s cool blue backdrop to the east.
When my eyes fell upon something in the road, I immediately adjusted the wheel so that I’d pass over the top of it. It looked like a fairly large rock, though I’m not sure where it would’ve come from. Then I realized: it was a bird.
I slammed on the brakes and my eggs went flying into the back of my seat. It looked like the bird was stunned, as it was just sitting there in the middle of the street. I pulled over, thinking that if passing over the top of it might scare it into action, it could meet my tires and not live to see another day.
It was a mourning dove. While they do like to wreak havoc on my bird feeder and make a mess of the seeds, I enjoy watching them; they, along with the sparrows, all seem to ultimately enjoy the makeshift buffet that the doves create in the grass below the feeder each time I fill it with seed. Perhaps the little guy I was looking at was one who had visited my backyard before.
Since the street was still empty, I approached the bird slowly and got within about two feet. His head finally moved a bit and off it flew, its wings whistling as they cut through the night air.
It’s hard to say if the bird was stunned or if it was just there for a rest — though, if the latter, I’d like to encourage him to opt for my backyard in the future, given it’s protected by a wall, sees few predators — and certainly never a car. But better to stop and check on the little thing instead of assuming it would be OK and having it get caught up in the undercarriage of my car, or crushed by my tires. The only thing that lost its life this evening was one egg out of the twelve I purchased. No worries — I’d rather a cracked shell and a runny mess than a dove that would have me mourning its loss.
Sometimes I see people who probably should be checked on, but I never do — I assume that they’d use their voice or seek out assistance if it was needed, and then there’s that whole thing about personal safety. It’s easier for me to check on animals since they can’t communicate with us and aren’t able to say whether they’re in need or not. But tonight’s mourning dove was a beautiful reminder that regardless of whether it’s an animal or a person, everything is worth being checked on — or, at the very least, alerting someone who can help if they are in need. They may be perfectly fine and we might experience a minor loss in the process — a broken egg, a few minutes of our day lost forever — but if we’re all here coexisting, isn’t continued existence reason enough to raise our hand and help when the opportunity presents itself?
For the lesson of the mourning dove, I am thankful.